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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 119

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 18


‘Wondrous things out of Thy law.’

Psalms 119:18

The life of the soul has its wonders as well as the life of the body and the life of nature. It is a complex and mysterious thing. None but ‘opened eyes’ can discern its marvellous treasures; and with them the further we see the greater is the wonder. God’s discipline, God’s patience, God’s adjustment of men’s powers and defects, God’s method of answering prayer or seeming to be deaf to it—in these and similar dealings we can, if we will, find ever-fresh food for wonder, if only He grant us the gift of a teachable heart and an open eye.

I. Think of the phenomenon, so well known to all Christians, God’s strength made perfect in weakness.—Sometimes it is in spite of men’s weakness; sometimes it is actually in consequence of it. The wonderful thing is to see how God’s strength often takes hold of a weak character, and works upon it His miracles of purification. Where the worldly critic despairs, the instructed Christian hopes.

II. Consider another phenomenon in God’s discipline: the use which He makes of disappointment.—Is there no room for wonder here? To a very young boy disappointment is crushing and blinding. Everything and everybody seem set against him. But when growing years or a riper Christian experience has at last opened his eyes, he begins to discern ‘wondrous things’ in the Divine law of disappointment. He sees, and others perhaps see still more plainly, that that was the rock on which his character was built.

III. Notice another wondrous thing of God’s law: His permission of sin.—Sin is overruled into a trainer of righteousness. There are few more wondrous things in the moral world than to trace how a good man has been trained by his own sins, or rather trained by the Holy Spirit of God through the permitted instrumentality of his own personal sins.

IV. Once more, if we look at the method by which God works His plans of improvement, may we not find abundant cause for reverent wonder?—Think of His patience; His choice of feeble instruments; His choice, too, of unexpected and, as we should have thought, inappropriate means to work out His own ends; His discouragement sometimes of the higher agencies, and apparent preference for the lower. ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!’

Rev. Dr. H. M. Butler.

Verse 50


‘The same is my comfort in my trouble: for Thy word hath quickened me.’

Psalms 119:50 (Prayer Book Version)

When we study the Psalms with a religious purpose, we would know something of the writers, and it is unfortunate that we know very little about them.

I. ‘My comfort in my trouble.’—It is quite clear that the words are emphatic, that the Psalmist meant to draw attention to himself, both in reference to his trouble and in reference to his comfort. And so you and I must also be emphatic, and devote our attention to our trouble and our comfort. Let us see, then, in what way he speaks of God’s revelation as his comfort.

( a) He would distinguish it from the comfort that other persons receive. The man of the world finds comfort in various sources. But this saint of God speaks of God’s Word as ‘my comfort.’ It tells of that spiritual experience which is peculiar to each one of us when we with all our hearts strive to serve God, and it speaks of that comfort and joy which we can recollect we have received in reading with faith and with love God’s Word, and deriving from it that help which we well know we need in the hour of our trouble.

( b) It is my comfort as revealing to me the cause of my trouble. The servant of God looks to God’s Word, and there he finds that God has allowed this trouble to come upon him to try him, to see whether he really loves Him, to see whether that heart of the pilgrim responds to the heart of Him Who is its King, its Guide. And therefore he begins to feel that the trouble is, after all, one allowed to come upon him by God for some good reason of His own, and in that he receives comfort.

( c) It is my comfort, because it is one always present with me wherever I go. Wherever I am, there is that message from God which I recollect, remember imperfectly perhaps in reference to the exact words, but there it is. I store it up in my memory: it is an ever-present comfort.

II. ‘Thy Word hath quickened me.’—The result of this comfort which God gives to His striving and faithful soldier, in these messages which He conveys through His revealed Word to His soul, gives him new life, quickens him.

This quickening of our spiritual life, this quickening of our effort in the affairs of our daily life, comes to us in two distinct ways.

( a) First of all it comes to us from outside, it comes to us from our reading of God’s Word. Holy Scripture is full of comfort and encouragement to those who strive with a good heart. Only be strong and of a good courage. When the apostles thought they were overwhelmed with the waves of the storm on the lake, Jesus was present with them, and when, in their fear, they saw Him coming, He cried out, ‘Be not afraid! it is I.’ And we see in every page of God’s Word how God was the comfort and support of His servants of old.

( b) And it gives us new life from within. For we recall, in reference to that moment of our spiritual wakening, many a time when God was very good to us.

—Rev. Canon Holmes.


‘When we look into so long a psalm as the 119th we seem to see somewhat of the circumstances of the writer’s life. It is a late psalm, a psalm written by one who lived in times when the Jewish nation was being influenced by the heathen nations around, and it seemed almost as if the persecution had gone further in reference to him who wrote the psalm, as if they had actually placed him in durance vile. Yet, clinging more strongly to the words of God revealed to him and to his nation by the prophets of old, they were the sole comfort to him in his distress. “The same is my comfort in my trouble: for Thy word hath quickened me.” Now we come to the application to ourselves. Does it ever happen that we are similarly situated? Has it never occurred to us that we have been under influences which we felt were influences which tended to weaken the hold of the Christian faith upon our souls and our hearts? Certainly, we are from time to time brought face to face with persecution. Have we had recourse to God’s promises, written and preserved to us in God’s Word, and can we say with this pious Jew, “The same is my comfort in my trouble”?’

Verse 71


‘It is good for me that I have been in trouble: that I may learn Thy statutes.’

Psalms 119:71 (Prayer Book Version)

It is scarcely surprising if the mystery of pain has been a problem which beyond almost any other has tasked the brain and wearied the heart of many of the world’s greatest thinkers.

I. Pain the result of sin.—It is important for us to remember at the outset that a huge amount of the pain of which we ourselves are the unwilling witnesses, perhaps even victims, to-day is the direct or indirect result of sin, and being such it is wholly unjustifiable for us to cast the tiniest stigma of blame upon the Almighty for its existence. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, yea, even unto the third and fourth generation. This statement is not a mere piece of philosophic theory; it is a tremendous present-day fact of which even the most unreflecting among us cannot fail to take notice. Consequences are God’s commentaries.

II. The discipline of pain.—But my purpose now is rather to dwell upon pain and suffering regarded from their disciplinary point of view. I would appeal to the testimony of the Gospels. I do not mean necessarily the experience of great thinkers, but also that of the humblest and most commonplace of the sons of men. Can we fail to recognise it as a truth that pain and suffering have been responsible, times without number, for the development of the most beautiful traits of Christian character? Is it not an incontestable fact that pain is, as it were, a great moral lever wielding a far mightier power than riches, or force, or both. The road to victory lies across the burning, fiery furnace of martyrdom. It was in the presence of a Man of Sorrows that the great unshaken imperial might of Rome was at length compelled to bow, and at last crumbled to atoms. Hence we can understand the tremendous words of the Master when He charged us to take up our cross and follow Him. Pain, suffering, discipline, these are potent beyond anything else to uplift our poor human nature to its true height. Trial or suffering, this must be the lot of us all. It was through discipline like this that the great Captain of our salvation, wearing the robe of flesh, was exalted to the right hand of the Father Himself, and we ourselves cannot rebel against a similar lot. ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.’ Personal suffering—this is a cross which we must inevitably endure if we desire our own individual souls to be filled with the Divine grace of sympathy, if we desire to take our share in bearing the burdens of our comrades. It will quicken our spiritual perceptions till we become possessed of an insight, altogether foreign to any previous experience, an insight which will impel us to extend a helping hand to a companion who has perhaps been racked with some long agony. The very fact that we ourselves have partaken of God’s gift of suffering will throw around us in the eyes of our fellow-men a bright halo of love. Whether it be the soldiers who have fought shoulder to shoulder through same toilsome campaign or the patriots who have sworn that they will give their life-blood, if need be, for the triumph of their cause, or the husband and wife upon whose heads the storms of adversity have descended in blinding torrents; these will be the people who will be able to exclaim with the full heart of the Psalmist, ‘It is good for me that I have been in trouble.’

III. Christianity and life.—Suffering and discipline, then, are mighty factors in our spiritual education, and when we dwell upon such themes as these, the inherent reasonableness of much which would be otherwise dark and inscrutable is beginning to dawn on our minds. Now we are ascended to higher ground still. The very clouds themselves seem to be rolling away. We almost fancy that we can get a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem. Life—this is the great title of Christianity—remember not simply the purification of this life, passed in this world of lights and shadows, has the promise of an infinitely purer, grander life in the vast ages which are as yet unborn. Once realise and take home to yourselves the great fact that this world is not an end of itself, but rather a school of character, and the discipline of pain and suffering seems forthwith to fall into its place as a normal and necessary element in the Divine government of the world. We are constrained to believe that each one of us exists for a definite purpose, but the purpose which is apparently the sign of each personality is ever being ceaselessly baffled. In all that we attempt to perform we are fettered, shackled, hampered. Pleasure, knowledge, achievement, each of these in turn breaks down, and as we fall upon them they pierce us through and through. But remember, we are working for the most glorious of futures, when the life we now enjoy will attain to its complete development, when we shall indeed know what it is to realise ourselves; for we shall wake up with Christ’s own likeness and be satisfied with it.

Rev. Canon Perkins.

Verse 94


‘I am Thine, O save me: for I have sought Thy commandments.’

Psalms 119:94 (Prayer Book Version)

We notice as we read this psalm that there is one thought that occurs in every single verse right through the psalm from beginning to end, and that is the thought of God’s law. The writer has evidently learned one great fact in his life, that we depend upon God for all our good things, and without Him we can do nothing; he has learned that as God is the supporter and stay of the whole creation, so He is the supporter and stay of the individual human life. And then, as he dwells upon this change, there is another thought which comes to his mind, and which seems to press upon him almost as strongly as that first thought, and that is that there is something between man and God which prevents man from following God’s Will, and that something he knows to be the existence of sin. He feels his need of pardon, and so he prays, ‘I am Thine, O save me!’

I. The need of a Saviour.—This need is a need which we should all of us feel. There have been times, and we know it, when we have wandered far away from God. But God has blessings in store for the sinner, as soon as the sinner becomes penitent and turns from the evil of his ways.

II. The meaning of penitence.—Let us try and see what is the real meaning of this word, penitence. The first step necessary in true penitence is that we must learn to know ourselves. The writer of this psalm says, ‘I am Thine, O save me! for I have sought Thy commandments,’ and that is necessary for us as it was necessary for him. How can we gain this necessary self-knowledge? Christ says, If you would know human nature, know yourself and your own life. There must be times when you cut yourself off from the world, and when you get alone with God. And so, if we would know what real penitence is, it is necessary first of all to know ourselves and our own life, and to call upon the Lord, ‘O save me!’ And then comes the second step, which is equally necessary. You find it in the second part of that same verse, ‘I have sought Thy commandments.’ That is what is necessary for true penitence; that is what we mean by real conversion.

III. A change of life.—Conversion means turning to God, seeking His commandments, and we must make no mistake about it. It means a change of heart, which must be followed by a change of life. Real penitence, real conversion is not a state of feeling, but a change of life. The result of our conversion, or our turning to God, may show itself in different ways. It sometimes is a sudden result, and it shows itself suddenly in the complete change of a life, so that those who know us can see what has taken place in our lives and see at once we have turned to God. But conversion does not always come to a man in this way. Sometimes it comes slowly and gradually. Sometimes God’s Holy Spirit has to deal with a man very gently, and lead him on slowly, step by step, correcting one fault at a time, gradually changing his life; and it is only after a long time that we see the result of the change in his changed life. Let us see that our penitence is real and true—that our conversion is genuine. And this we can do only by going through those two steps which are mentioned in this psalm. The first step by calling upon God—‘I am Thine, O save me!’ and then by seeking His commandments.

Verse 113


‘I hate vain thoughts.’

Psalms 119:113

I. First, what are vain thoughts?—(1) There are the vain, worldly thoughts, which we must hate. Thoughts which in themselves are perfectly harmless and innocent may become vain through being welcomed and entertained at the wrong season. The same thoughts may become sinful and vain through mere excess, through occupying our minds overmuch. The world must be very near us when the worldly thought is ever with us. Our treasure, our best treasure, must assuredly be there, else our heart and the thought of our heart would not be always there also. (2) But if a wise man will watch against these thoughts about this world, which are only sinful when indulged or allowed at a wrong time or in excess, how much more will he hate those that in their nature and essence are sinful, as, for example, impure thoughts, being such as more than any other sully and defile the mirror of the soul, and render it incapable of giving back the pure image of God. (3) The transition to other thoughts, to such as we more immediately ascribe to the devil, is easy. It will be enough to indicate proud thoughts in general as the third division of those we have to consider.

II. Consider the remedies for vain thoughts.—Chase them wholly away we never shall, but let them find no entertainment from us. As often as they visit us, let them drive us to Him by whose holy inspiration alone we are able either to think those things which be good, or to refuse to think those things which be evil; let them drive us to Him in a real, though it may be a voiceless, prayer, in a brief meditation on the glories of heaven or on the pains of hell, or on Christ hanging upon His cross and bearing there the penalty of our sins, or on Christ coming to judgment and bringing to light all hidden things of darkness, and this wicked thought of ours among the rest. In devices such as these we must find our help.

Archbishop Trench.

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 119". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/psalms-119.html. 1876.
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