Meditations In the Psalms

Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon

Part X: Psalm 119:89-176

The Psalms

Verses 89 to 96

"Forever, O Yahweh,
Your word is settled in heaven."
(vs. 89)

God's purposes, promises, and precepts are all settled in his own mind, and none of them shall be disturbed. Covenant settlements will not be removed, however unsettled the thoughts of men may become. Let us therefore settle it in our minds that we abide in the faith of our Jehovah as long as we have any being. (Charles Spurgeon)

Here the climax of the delineation of the suppliant's pilgrimage is reached. We have arrived at the center of the Psalm, and the thread of the connection is purposely broken off. The substance of the first eleven strophes has evidently been: "Hitherto has the Lord brought me; shall it be that I now perish?" To this the eleven succeeding strophes make answer: "The Lord's word changes not; and in spite of all evil forebodings, the Lord will perfect concerning me the work that he has already begun." (Joseph Francis Thrupp)

"Thy word is settled in heaven." So the Syriac reads it; and Geierus, and after him others, prove and approve this reading. And so this verse and the following do the better correspond one with the other, if we observe beginning and ending: As thou art "for ever, O Lord," and "thy faithfulness is unto all generations," which are exactly parallel. And so also will the last clauses agree: "Thy word is settled in heaven," and, "thou hast established the earth, and it abides."

It implies that as God is eternal, so is his word, and that it has a fit representation both in heaven and in earth: in heaven, in the constant motion of the heavenly bodies; in earth, in the consistency and permanency thereof. That as his word does stand fast in heaven, so does his faithfulness on earth, where the afflictions of the godly seem to contradict it. (Thomas Manton)

"Thy commandment is exceeding broad."
(vs. 96)

As there is more mercy in the gospel than we are able to comprehend, so there is more holiness in the law than we are able to comprehend. No man ever saw into the depths of that righteousness. There is an infinite holiness in the law. "I have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandment is exceeding broad." He speaks not in the concrete, I have seen an end of perfect things, but in the abstract, "an end of perfection." I have come to the outside or to the very bottom of all (a man may soon travel through all the perfections that are in the world and either see their end or see that they end); "but thy commandment is exceeding broad," that is, it is exceedingly broader than any of these perfections. I cannot see the end of it, and I know it shall never have an end. There is a vastness of purity and spiritualness in the law. (Joseph Caryl)

Verses 97 to 104

"Oh, how love I thy law!"
(vs. 97)

This most precious jewel is to be preferred above all treasures. If you are hungry, it is meat to satisfy you. If you are thirsty, it is drink to refresh you. If you are sick, it is a present remedy. If you are weak, it is a staff to lean upon. If your enemy assaults you, it is a sword to fight with. If you are in darkness, it is a lantern to guide your feet. If you are doubtful of the way, it is a bright shining star to direct you. If you are in displeasure with God, it is the message of reconciliation. If you study to save your soul, receive the word engrafted, for that is able to do it; it is the word of life. Whoso loves salvation will love this word--love to read it, love to hear it. And such as will neither read nor hear it, Christ says plainly they are not of God. For the spouse gladly hears the voice of the bridegroom; and "my sheep hear my voice," says the Prince of pastors (John 10:27). (Edwin Sandys)

"I have restrained my feet from every evil way."
(vs. 101)

The word "refrained" [restrained] warns us that we are naturally borne by our feet into the path of every kind of sin and are hurried along it by the rush of human passions, so that even the wise and understanding need to check, recall, and retrace their steps in order that they may keep God's word and not become castaways. And further note that the Hebrew verb here translated "refrained" [restrained] is even stronger in meaning and denotes, "I fettered, or imprisoned my feet," whereby we may learn that no light resistance is enough to prevent them from leading us astray. (Agellius and Genebrardus in Neal and Littledale)

Verses 105 to 112

"Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
(vs. 105)

What we all want is not to see wonders that daze us and to be rapt in ecstatic visions and splendors, but a little light on the dark and troubled path we have to tread, a lamp that will burn steadfastly and helpfully over the work we have to do. The stars are infinitely more sublime, meteors infinitely more superb and dazzling, but the lamp shining in a dark place is infinitely closer to our practical needs. (From "The Expositor")

"I have sworn, and I will perform it,
That I will keep thy righteous judgments."
(vs. 106)

I would now urge you to make a solemn surrender of yourself unto the service of God. Do not only form such a purpose in your heart, but expressly declare it in the Divine presence. Such solemnity in the manner of doing it is certainly very reasonable in the nature of things; and sure it is highly expedient for binding to the Lord such a treacherous heart as we know our own to be. It will be pleasant to reflect upon it as done at such and such a time with such and such circumstances of place and method, which may serve to strike the memory and the conscience. The sense of the vows of God which are upon you will strengthen you in an hour of temptation, and the recollection may encourage your humble boldness and freedom in applying to him under the character and relation of your covenant God and Father as future exigencies may require.

Do it therefore, but do it deliberately. Consider what it is that you are to do, and consider how reasonable it is that it should be done, and done cordially and cheerfully, "not by constraint, but willingly"; for in this sense, and every other, "God loves a cheerful giver."

Let me remind you that this surrender must be perpetual. You must give yourself up to God in such a manner as never more to pretend to be your own; for the rights of God are, like his nature, eternal and immutable, and with regard to his rational creatures are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I would further advise and urge that this dedication may be made with all possible solemnity. Do it in express words. And perhaps it may be in many cases most expedient, as many pious divines have recommended, to do it in writing. Set your hand and seal to it, "that on such a day of such a month and year, and at such a place, on full consideration and serious reflection, you came to this happy resolution--that whatever others might do, you would serve the Lord." (Philip Doddridge)

Frequently renew settled and holy resolutions. A soldier unresolved to fight may easily be defeated. True and sharpened courage tread down those difficulties which would triumph over a cold and wavering spirit. Resolution in a weak man will perform more than strength in a coward. The weakness of our graces, the strength of our temptations, and the diligence of our spiritual enemies require strong resolutions. We must be "steadfast and unmoveable," and this will make us "abound in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). Abundant exercise in God's work will strengthen the habit of grace, increase our skill in the contest, and make the victory more easy and pleasant to us. Let us frame believing, humble resolutions in the strength of God's grace, with a fear of ourselves but a confidence in God. David bound himself to God with a hearty vow, depending upon his strength: "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." This was not in his own strength, for, ver. 107, he desires God to quicken him, and to "accept the freewill offerings of his mouth," ver. 108, namely, the oath which proceeded from a free and resolved will. God will not slight but strengthen the affectionate resolutions of his creature. We cannot keep ourselves from falling unless we first keep our resolutions from flagging. (Stephen Charnock)

"Revive me, O Yahweh, according to your word."
(vs. 107)

"According unto thy word." David goes often over with that phrase, which imports that David lay under the sense of some promise which God had made for the quickening of his heart when it was out of frame, and accordingly he recounts the gracious influence of God's Spirit and professes that he will never forget his precepts, because by them he had quickened him (vs. 93).

Thus, lay your dead hearts at Christ's feet and plead in this manner: Lord, my heart is exceedingly dull and distracted. I feel not these enlarging, melting influences which your saints have felt; but are they not chief material mercies of the covenant? Do you not promise a spirit of illumination, conviction, and humiliation? Is not holiness of heart and life a main branch of it? Do you not promise therein to write your law in my heart, to give me oneness of heart, to put your fear within me, to subdue my corruptions, to help my infirmities in prayer? Now, Lord, these are the mercies my soul wants and waits for. Fill my soul with these animating influences, revive your work of grace in my soul, draw out my heart towards you, increase my affection for you, repair your image, call forth grace into lively exercise. Does not that gracious word intend such a mercy when you say you will not only give a new heart but "put a new spirit within me" (Ezek. 36:26), to make my soul lively, active, and spiritual in duties and exercises? Dear Lord, am not I in covenant with you, and are not these covenant mercies? Why, then, my God, is my heart thus hardened from your fear? Why do you leave me in all this deadness and distraction? Remember your word unto your servant in which you have caused me to hope, and which you have helped me to plead, O quicken my dull heart according to thy word. (Oliver Heywood)

"Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Yahweh."
(vs. 108)

It is a great grace that the Lord should accept anything from us, if we consider these three things: First, who the Lord is; next, what we are; thirdly, what it is we have to give unto him.

As for the Lord, he is all-sufficient, and stands in need of nothing we can give him. Our goodness extends not to the Lord (Ps. 16).

As for us, we are poor creatures living by his liberality, yea, begging from all the rest of his creatures--from the sun and moon; from the air, the water, and the earth; from fowls and fishes; yea, from the worms. Some give us light, some meat, some clothes, and are such beggars as we meet to give to a king?

And, thirdly, if we well consider, What is it that we give? Have we anything to give but that which we have received from him, and of which we may say with David, "O Lord, all things are of thee, and of thine own have we given thee again" (1 Chr. 29:14). Let this humble us and restrain us from that vain conceit of meriting at God's hand. (William Cowper)

Verses 113 to 120

"I hate vain thoughts, but I love your law."
(vs. 113)

In those vacant hours which are spared from business, pleasure, company, and sleep, and which are spent in solitude at home or abroad, unprofitable, proud, covetous, sensual, envious, or malicious imaginations occupy the minds of ungodly men and often infect their very dreams. These are not only sinful in themselves, indicating the state of their hearts, and as such will be brought into the account at the day of judgment, but they excite the dormant corruptions and lead to more open and gross violations of the holy law. The carnal mind welcomes and delights to dwell upon these congenial imaginations and to solace itself by ideal indulgences when opportunity of other gratification is not presented, or when a man dares not commit the actual transgression. But the spiritual mind recoils at them. Such thoughts will intrude from time to time, but they are unwelcome and distressing and are immediately thrust out, while other subjects from the word of God are stored up in readiness to occupy the mind more profitably and pleasantly during the hours of leisure and retirement. There is no better test of our true character than the habitual effect of "vain thoughts" upon our minds--whether we love and indulge them, or abhor and watch and pray against them. (Thomas Scott)

When David was able to vouch his love to the command, he did not question his title to the promise. Here he asserts his sincere affection to the precepts: "I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love." Mark, he does not say he is free from vain thoughts, but he "hates" them. He likes their company no better than one would a pack of thieves that break into his house. Neither says he that he fully kept the law, but he "loved" the law even when he failed of exact obedience to it. (William Gurnall)

"Hold me up, and I shall be safe."
(vs. 117)

Three things made David afraid. First, great temptation without; for from every air the wind of temptation blows upon a Christian. Secondly, great corruption within. Thirdly, examples of other worthy men who had fallen before him, and are written for us; not that we should learn to fall, but to fear lest we fall. These three should always hold us humble according to that warning, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (William Cowper)

Not only the consciousness of my weakness, but the danger of the slippery path before me, reminds me that the safety of every moment depends upon the upholding power of my faithful God. The ways of temptation are so many and imperceptible, the influence of it so appalling, the entrance into it so deceitful, so specious, so insensible, and my own weakness and unwatchfulness are so unspeakable that I can do nothing but go on my way, praying at every step, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." (Charles Bridges)

"My flesh trembles for fear of you,
And I am afraid of your judgments."
(vs. 120)

Such was his awe in the presence of the Judge of all the earth, whose judgment he had just now been considering, that he did exceedingly fear and quake. Even the grosser part of his being--his flesh--felt a solemn dread at the thought of offending one so good and great, who would so effectually sever the wicked from among the just. . . . At the thought of the Judge of all,--his piercing eye, his books of record, his day of assize, and the operations of his justice,--we may well cry for cleansed thoughts and hearts and ways, lest his judgments should light on us. When we see the great Refiner separating the precious from the vile, we may well feel a godly fear lest we should be put away by him and left to be trodden under his feet. (Charles Spurgeon)

In prayer, in the evening, I had such near and terrific views of God's judgments upon sinners in hell that my flesh trembled for fear of them. . . . I flew trembling to Jesus Christ as if the flames were taking hold of me! Oh! Christ will indeed save me or else I perish. (Henry Martyn)

Verses 121 to 128

"Be surety for your servant for good;
Do not let the proud oppress me."
(vs. 122)

What David prays to God to be for him, that Christ is for all his people: Heb. 7:22. He drew nigh to God, struck hands with him, gave his word and bond to pay the debts of his people; put himself in their law-place and stead, and became responsible to law and justice for them; engaged to make satisfaction for their sins, to bring in everlasting righteousness for their justification, and to preserve and keep them, and bring them safe to eternal glory and happiness. And this was being a surety for them for good. (John Gill)

The keen eye of the world may possibly not be able to affix any blot upon my outward profession; but, "if thou, Lord, should mark iniquities; O Lord, who shall stand?" The debt is continually accumulating and the prospect of payment as distant as ever. I might well expect to be "left to my oppressors" until I should pay all that was due unto my Lord. But behold! "Where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isa. 51:13). The surety is found, the debt is paid, the ransom is accepted, the sinner is free. There was a voice heard in heaven, "Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom" (Job 33:24). The Son of God himself became "surety for a stranger" and "smarted for it" (Prov. 11:15). At an infinite cost--the cost of his own precious blood--he delivered me from "my oppressors"--sin, Satan, the world, death, hell. (Charles Bridges)

"Deal with your servant according to your mercy."
(vs. 124)

"Thy mercy." All the year round, every hour of every day, God is richly blessing us. Both when we sleep and when we wake his mercy waits upon us. The sun may leave off shining, but our God will never cease to cheer his children with his love. Like a river, his loving-kindness is always flowing with a fullness inexhaustible as his own nature, which is its source. Like the atmosphere which always surrounds the earth and is always ready to support the life of man, the benevolence of God surrounds all his creatures. In it, as in their element, they live, and move, and have their being. Yet as the sun on summer days appears to gladden us with beams more warm and bright than at other times, and as rivers are at certain seasons swollen with the rain, and as the atmosphere itself on occasions is fraught with more fresh, more bracing, or more balmy influences than heretofore, so is it with the mercy of God. It has its golden hours, its days of overflow when the Lord magnifies his grace and lifts high his love before the sons of men. (Charles Spurgeon).

"I am your servant;
Give me understanding."
(vs. 125)

I am not a stranger to thee, but thine own domestic servant. Let me lack no grace which may enable me to serve thee. (William Cowper)

That you are the servant of God, you should regard as your chiefest glory and blessedness. (Martin Geier)

"It is time for thee, Yahweh, to work."
(vs. 126)

Was ever vessel more hopelessly becalmed in mid-ocean, or did crew ever cry with more frenzy for some favoring breeze than those should cry who man the Church of the living God? If God work not, it is certain there is nothing before the Church but the prospect of utter discomfiture and overthrow. Greater is the world than the Church if God be not in her. But if God be in her, she shall not be moved. May he help her, and that right early!

When he arises to work, we know not what may be the form and fashion of his operations. He works according to the counsel of his own will. And who knows but that when once he awakes, and puts on his strength, it may not be confined in its results to the immediate and exclusive quickening of the spiritual life of the Church but may be associated with providential upheavals and convulsions, which will fill the heart of the world with astonishment and dismay. His spiritual kingdom does not stand in isolation. It has relations which closely involve it with the material universe, and with human society and national life. There have been times when God has worked, and the signs of his presence have been seen in terrible shakings of the nations, in the plowing up from their foundations of hoary injustice, in the smiting of grinding tyrannies, and in the emancipation of peoples whose life had been a long and hopeless moan. There have been times, too, and many, when he has worked through the elements of nature--through blasting and mildew, through floods and famine, through locust, caterpillar and palmer-worm; through flagging commerce, with its machinery rusting in the mill and its ships rotting in the harbor. All these things are his servants. Sometimes the sleep of the world, and the Church too, is so profound that it can be broken only by agencies like the wind, or fire, or earthquake, which made the prophet shiver at the mouth of the cave, and without which the voice that followed--so still, so small and tender--would have lost much of its melting and subduing power.

When society has become drugged with the Circean cup of worldliness and the voices that come from eternity are unheeded, if not unheard, even terror has its merciful mission. The frivolous and superficial hearts of men have to be made serious, their idols have to be broken, their nests have to be stoned or tossed from the trees where they had been made with so much care, and they have to be taught that if this life be all, it is but a phantom and a mockery.

When the day of the Lord shall come, in which he shall begin to work, let us not marvel if it "shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."

But this working of God will also take other shapes. Will it not be seen in the inspiration of the Church with faith in its own creed, so far as that creed has the warrant of the Divine word? Does the Church believe its creed? It writes it, sets it forth, sings it, defends it. But does it believe it, at least with a faith which begets either enthusiasm in itself or respect from the world? Have not the truths which form the methodized symbols of the Church become propositions instead of living powers? Do they not lie embalmed with superstitious reverence in the ark of tradition, tenderly cherished for what they have been and done? But is it not forgotten that if they be truths, they are not dead and cannot die? They are true now, or they were never true; living now, or they never lived. Time cannot touch them, nor human opinion, nor the Church's sluggishness or unbelief, for they are emanations from the Divine essence, instinct with his own undecaying life. They are not machinery which may become antiquated and obsolete and displaced by better inventions. They are not methods of policy framed for conditions which are transient, and vanishing with them. They are not scaffolding within which other and higher truth is to be reared from age to age. They are like him who is the end of our conversation, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." There is not one of them which, if the faith it awakens were but commensurate with its intrinsic worth, would not clothe the Church with a new and wondrous power. But what would be that power if that faith were to grasp them all? It would be life from the dead. (Enoch Mellor)

True it is, Lord, that we are not to appoint you your times and limits, for you are the Ancient of Days, Time's Creator and destinator. Neither do we presume to press in at the portal of your private chamber to "know the times and seasons" which you our Father has reserved in your own power. Yet, Lord, you have taught us, as to discern the face of the sky, so to descry the signs of the times, and from the cause to expect the effect which necessarily does ensue. "You are a God full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Ps. 103:8); and you sustain many wrongs of the sons of men, being crushed with their sins as a cart is laden with sheaves. But if still they continue to load you, you will ease yourself of that burden and cast it on the ground of confusion. You are "slow to anger, but great in power, and will not surely clear the wicked" (Nahum 1:3). You do for a long space hold your peace at men's sins, and are still, and do restrain yourself. But if men will not turn, you will whet your sword and bend your bow and make it ready. Patient you are, and for a long time forbear your hand. But when the forehead of sin begins to lose the blush of shame, when the beadroll of transgressions grow in score from East to West, when the cry of them pierces above the clouds, when the height of wickedness is come to the top and the fruits thereof are ripe and full, then it is time for you, Lord, to take notice of it, to awake like a giant and put forth your all-revenging hand.

But our sins are already ripe, yea, rotten ripe, the measure of our iniquities is full up to the brim. Doubtless our land is sunken deep in iniquity. Our tongues and works have been against the Lord to provoke the eyes of his glory. The trial of our countenance does testify against us (Isa. 3:8,9). Yea, we declare our sins as Sodom, we hide them not, the cry of our sins is exceeding grievous. The clamors of them pierce the skies and with a loud voice roar, saying, "How long, Lord, holy and true? How long before you come to avenge yourself on such a nation as this?" (Rev. 6:10; Jer. 9:9). (George Webbe)

"Therefore I love your commandments more than gold,
Yes, than fine gold!"
(vs. 127)

The image employed brings before us the picture of the miser; his heart and his treasure are in his gold. With what delight he counts it! With what watchfulness he keeps it, hiding it in safe custody lest he should be despoiled of that which is dearer to him than life! Such should Christians be--spiritual misers--counting their treasure which is "above fine gold," and "hiding it in their hearts" in safe keeping where the great despoiler shall not be able to reach it. Oh, Christians! How much more is your portion to you than the miser's treasure! Hide it, watch it, retain it. You need not be afraid of covetousness in spiritual things. Rather "covet earnestly" to increase your store; and by living upon it and living in it, it will grow richer in extent and more precious in value. (Charles Bridges)

Is it asked, "What will most effectually turn my eyes from vanity?" Not the seclusion of contemplative retirement; not the relinquishment of our lawful connection with the world; but the transcendent beauty of Jesus unveiled to our eyes and fixing our hearts. (Charles Bridges)

"Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right;
And I hate every false way."
(vs. 128)

The upright man squares all his actions by a right rule. Carnal reason cannot bias him, corrupt practice cannot sway him, but God's sacred word directs him. Hence it is that his respect is universal to all divine precepts, avoiding all evil, performing all good without exception. Thus David's upright man here esteems God's precepts concerning all things to be right, and therefore is careful to observe them. Hence it is that he is the same man at all times, in all places; because at all times and in all societies he acts by one and the same rule. (Abraham Wright)

Verses 129 to 136

"Thy testimonies are wonderful."
(vs. 129)

The Scriptures are "wonderful" with respect to the matter which they contain, the manner in which they are written, and the effects which they produce. They contain the sublimest spiritual truths veiled under external ceremonies and sacraments, figurative descriptions, typical histories, parables, similitudes, etc. When properly opened and enforced, they terrify and humble, they convert and transform, they console and strengthen. Who but must delight to study and to "observe" these "testimonies" of the will and the wisdom, the love and the power of God Most High! While we have these holy writings, let us not waste our time, misemploy our thoughts, and prostitute our admiration by doting on human follies and wondering at human trifles. (George Horne)

"The entrance of your words give light;
It gives understanding to the simple."
(vs. 130)

A profane [impious] shopman crams into his pocket a leaf of a Bible and reads the last words of Daniel, "Go thou thy way till the end be, for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days," and begins to think what his own lot will be when days are ended. A Gottingen Professor opens a big printed Bible to see if he has eyesight enough to read it and alights on the passage, "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not," and in reading it the eyes of his understanding are enlightened. Cromwell's soldier opens his Bible to see how far the musket-ball has pierced and finds it stopped at the verse, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart and the sight of thine eyes; but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." And in a frolic the Kentish soldier opens the Bible which his broken-hearted mother had sent him, and the first sentence that turns up is the text so familiar in boyish days, "Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden," and the weary profligate repairs for rest to Jesus Christ. (James Hamilton)

If all the books in the world were assembled together, the Bible would as much take the lead in disciplining the understanding as in directing the soul. It will not make astronomers, chemists, or linguists, but there is a great difference between strengthening the mind and storing it with information. (Henry Melvill)

"Look upon me and be merciful to me,
As your custom is toward those who love your word."
(vs. 132)

We should be content if God deals with us as he has always dealt with his people. While he could not be satisfied with anything less than their portion, David asks for nothing better. He implores no singular dispensation in his favor, no deviation from the accustomed methods of his grace. . . . It is always a good proof that your convictions and desires are from the operation of the Spirit when you are willing to conform to God's order. What is this order? It is to dispense his blessings connectedly. It is never to justify without sanctifying; never to give a title to heaven without a meetness [appropriateness] for it. Now the man who is divinely worked upon will not expect nor desire the one without the other. Therefore he will not expect the blessing of God without obedience, because it is always God's way to connect the comforts of the Holy Ghost with the fear of the Lord; and if his children transgress his laws, to visit their transgressions with a rod. Therefore he will neither expect nor desire his blessing without exertion, for it has always been God's way to crown only those who run the race that is set before them and fight the good fight of faith. Therefore he will not expect nor desire the Divine blessing without prayer, for it has always been God's way to make his people sensible of their needs and to give an answer to prayer. Therefore he will not expect nor desire to reach heaven without difficulties, for his people have always had to deny themselves and take up their cross. (William Jay)

"Rivers of water run down my eyes,
Because they keep not thy law."
(vs. 136)

He wept in sympathy with God to see the holy law despised and broken. He wept in pity for men who were thus drawing down upon themselves the fiery wrath of God. His grief was such that he could scarcely give it vent. His tears were not mere drops of sorrow but torrents of woe. In this he became like the Lord Jesus, who beheld the city and wept over it; and like unto Jehovah himself, who has no pleasure in the death of him who dies, but that he turn unto him and live. The experience of this verse indicates a great advance upon anything we have had before; the Psalm and the Psalmist are both growing. That man is a ripe believer who sorrows because of the sins of others. In verse 120 his flesh trembled at the presence of God, and here it seems to melt and flow away in floods of tears. None are so affected by heavenly things as those who are much in the study of the word, and are thereby taught the truth and essence of things. Carnal men are afraid of brute force and weep over losses and crosses. But spiritual men feel a holy fear of the Lord himself, and most of all lament when they see dishonor cast upon his holy name. (Charles Spurgeon)

Verses 137 to 144

"Righteous are you, O Yahweh,
And upright are your judgments."
(vs. 137)

The Psalmist has not often used the name of Jehovah [Yahweh] in this vast composition. The whole Psalm shows him to have been a deeply religious man, thoroughly familiar with the things of God; and such persons never use the holy name of God carelessly, nor do they even use it at all frequently in comparison with the thoughtless and the ungodly. Familiarity begets reverence in this case. Here he uses the sacred name in worship. He praises God by ascribing to him perfect righteousness. God is always right, and he is always actively right, that is, righteous. This quality is bound up in our very idea of God. We cannot imagine an unrighteous God. "And upright are thy judgments." Here he extols God's word, or recorded judgments, as being right, even as their Author is righteous. That which comes from the righteous God is itself righteous. Jehovah both says and does that which is right, and that alone. This is a great stay to the soul in time of trouble. When we are most sorely afflicted and cannot see the reason for the dispensation, we may fall back upon this most sure and certain fact--that God is righteous, and his dealings with us are righteous too. It should be our glory to sing this brave confession when all things around us appear to suggest the contrary. This is the richest adoration--this which rises from the lips of faith when carnal reason mutters about undue severity and the like. (Charles Spurgeon)

This is the first ground of comfort--a meditation of the righteousness of God's nature. He alters not with times, he changes not with persons, he is always and unto all one and the same righteous and holy God. Righteousness is essential to him, it is himself; and he can no more defraud the godly of their promised comforts, nor let the wicked go unpunished in their sins, than he can deny himself to be God, which is impossible. (William Cowper)

"My zeal has consumed me,
Because my enemies have forgotten your words."
(vs. 139)

There are various kinds of zeal. There is a zeal of the world, there is a zeal of the flesh, there is a zeal of false religion, there is a zeal of heresy, and there is a zeal of the true word of God. First, we see the zeal of the world makes men to labor day and night to get a transitory thing. The zeal of the flesh torments men's minds early and late for a momentary pleasure. The zeal of heresy makes men travel and compass sea and land for the maintaining and increasing of their opinion. Thus we see every man is eaten up with some kind of zeal. The drunkard is consumed with drunkenness, the whoremonger is spent with his whoredom, the heretic is eaten with heresies. Oh, how ought this to make us ashamed, who are so little eaten, spent, and consumed with the zeal of the word! And so much the rather, because godly zeal leaves in us an advantage and a recompense which the worldly and carnally zealous men have not. For when they have spent all the strength of their bodies and powers of their mind, they have no gain or comfort left, but torment of conscience; and when they are outwardly spent they are inwardly never the better. Whereas the godly, being concerned for a good thing and eaten up with the zeal of God's glory, have this notable privilege and profit, that howsoever their outward man perishes and decays, yet their inward man is still refreshed and nourished to everlasting life. Oh, what a benefit it is to be eaten up with the love and zeal of a good thing! (Richard Greenham)

Verses 145 to 152

"I cried with my whole heart."
(vs. 145)

As a man cries most loudly when he cries with all his mouth opened, so a man prays most effectually when he prays with his whole heart. Neither does this speech declare only the fervency of his affection, but it imports also that it was a great thing which he sought from God. And you, when you pray, pray for great things; for things enduring, not for things perishing. Pray not for silver, it is but rust; nor for gold, it is but metal; nor for possessions, they are but earth. Such prayer ascends not to God. He is a great God, and esteems himself dishonored when great things with great affection are not sought from him. (William Cowper)

"Concerning your testimonies,
I have known of old that you have founded them forever."
(vs. 152)

Let us mark this eternal basis of "the testimonies of God." The whole plan of redemption was emphatically "founded forever"; the Savior was "foreordained before the foundation of the world." The people of God were "chosen in Christ before the world began!" The great Author "declares the end from the beginning," and thus clears his dispensations from any charge of mutability or contingency. Every event in the church is fixed, permitted, and provided for--not in the passing moment of time, but in the counsels of eternity. When, therefore, the testimonies set forth God's faithful engagements with his people of old, the recollection that they are "founded forever" gives us a present and unchangeable interest in them. And when we see that they are grounded upon the oath and promise of God--the two "immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie"--we may truly "have strong consolation" in venturing every hope for eternity upon this rock. Nor need we be dismayed to see all our earthly dependencies--"the world, and the lust, and the fashion of it"--passing away before us. (Charles Bridges)

Verses 153 to 160

"Salvation is far from the wicked,
For they do not seek your statutes."
(vs. 155)

The Lord is almighty to pardon; but he will not use it for you, an impenitent sinner. . . . God is able to save and help in a time of need, but upon what acquaintance is it that you are so bold with God as to expect his saving arm to be stretched forth for you? Though a man rise at midnight to let in a child who cries and knocks at his door, yet he will not take so much pains for a dog that lies howling there. This presents your condition, sinner, sad enough, yet this is to tell your story fairly; for that almighty power of God which is engaged for the believer's salvation is as deeply obliged to bring you to your execution and damnation. What greater tie than an oath? God himself is under an oath to be the destruction of every impenitent soul. That oath which God swore in his wrath against the unbelieving Israelites--that they should not enter into his rest--concerns every unbeliever to the end of the world. . . . What then are your pillows stuffed with, who can sleep so soundly without any horror or amazement though they are told that the almighty God is under an oath of damning them body and soul without timely repentance? (William Gurnall)

"Great are your tender mercies, O Yahweh."
(vs. 156)

When the godly do think and speak of the damnable condition of the wicked, they should not be senseless of their own ill deserving, nor of God's grace which has made the difference between the wicked and them. (David Dickson)

The Psalmist, when speaking of the wretched condition of "the wicked," is naturally led to adore the mercies of the Lord which had "made him to differ." For indeed to this source alone must we trace the distinction between us and them. (Charles Bridges)

"I beheld the transgressors and was grieved."
(vs. 158)

Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbors. Alas, there is but a step between them and death and hell. Many hundreds of diseases are waiting ready to seize them, and if they die unregenerate they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock that you cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the word of God and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned so long as you are saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace. Should you not rather say, as the lepers of Samaria, "Is it not a day of glad tidings, and do we sit still and hold our peace?" (2 Kings 7:9). Has God had so much mercy on you and will you have no mercy on your poor neighbors? You need not go far to find objects for your pity. Look but into your streets or into the next house to you, and you will probably find some. Have you never an ignorant, an unregenerate neighbor who sets his heart on things below and neglects eternity? What blessed place do you live in where there is none such? If there be not some of them in your own family, it is well; and yet are you silent? Do you live close by them, or meet them in the streets, or labor with them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them and say nothing to them of their souls or the life to come? If their houses were on fire, you would run and help them. And will you not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell? If you knew but a remedy for their diseases, you would tell it to them, or else you would judge yourself guilty of their death. (Richard Baxter)

Verses 161 to 168

"Princes persecute me without a cause."
(vs. 161)

I settle it as an established point with me, that the more diligently and faithfully I serve Christ, the greater reproach and the more injury I must expect. I have drank deep of the cup of slander and reproach of late, but I am in no wise discouraged; no, nor by, what is much harder to bear, the unsuccessfulness of my endeavors to mend this bad world. (Philip Doddridge)

"Great peace have those who love your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble."
(vs. 165)

Amidst the storms and tempests of the world, there is a perfect calm in the breasts of those who not only do the will of God but "love" to do it. They are at peace with God by the blood of reconciliation; at peace with themselves by the answer of a good conscience and the subjection of those desires which war against the soul; at peace with all men by the spirit of charity; and the whole creation is so at peace with them that all things work together for their good. No external troubles can rob them of this "great peace"--no "offenses" or stumbling blocks which are thrown in their way by persecution, or temptation, by the malice of enemies, or by the apostasy of friends; anything which they see, hear of, or feel can detain or divert them from their course. Heavenly love surmounts every obstacle and runs with delight the way of God's commandments. (George Horne)

Learn the true wisdom of those of you who are new creatures, and who love God's holy law. All of you who are really brought to Christ are changed into his image, so that you love God's holy law. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." The world says: "What a slave you are! You cannot have a little amusement on the Sabbath, you cannot take a Sabbath walk or join a Sabbath tea party, you cannot go to a dance or a theater, you cannot enjoy the pleasures of sensual indulgence. You are a slave." I answer: Christ had none of these pleasures. He did not want them; nor do we. He knew what was truly wise and good and happy, and he chose God's holy law. He was the freest of all beings, and yet he knew no sin. Only make me free as Christ is free--this is all I ask. "Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them." (Robert Murray M'Cheyne)

"My soul keeps your testimonies,
And I love them exceedingly."
(vs. 167)

Let not our consciousness of daily failures make us shrink from this strong expression of confidence. It is alleged as an evidence of grace, not as a claim of merit, and therefore the most humble believer need not hesitate to adopt it as the expression of Christian sincerity before God. David aspired to no higher character than that of a poor sinner; but he was conscious of spirituality of obedience, "exceeding love" to the divine word, and a habitual walk under the eye of his God--the evidences of a heart (often mentioned in the Old Testament) "perfect with him." (Charles Bridges)

"I keep your precepts and your testimonies,
For all my ways are before you."
(vs. 168)

Walk, Christian, in the view of God's omniscience. Say to your soul, "Take heed, God sees." It is under the rose, as the common phrase is, that treason is spoken, when subjects think they are far enough from their king's hearing. But if such did know that the prince was under the window or behind the drapes, their discourse would be more loyal. This made David so upright in his walking: "I have kept thy precepts, for all my ways are before thee." If Alexander's empty chair--which his captains, when they met in counsel, set before them--did awe them so as to keep them in good order, how helpful would it be to set before ourselves the fact that God is looking upon us! . . . I may hide thee from my eye, but not myself from thine eye. (William Gurnall)

Verses 169 to 176

The Psalmist is approaching the end of the Psalm, and his petitions gather force and fervency. He seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring. This nearness creates the most lowly view of himself and leads him to close the Psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep. (Charles Spurgeon)

"Give me understanding according to your word."
(vs. 169)

The especial work of the Holy Spirit in the illumination of our minds unto the understanding of the Scripture is called "understanding." The Psalmist prays, "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law" (verse 34). So the apostle speaks to Timothy: "Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things" (2 Tim. 2:7). Besides his own consideration of what was proposed unto him, which includes the due and diligent use of all outward means, it was moreover necessary that God should give him understanding by an inward effectual work of his Spirit, that he might comprehend the things wherein he was instructed. And the desire hereof, as of that without which there can be no saving knowledge of the word, nor advantage by it, the Psalmist expresses emphatically with great fervency of spirit in verse 144: "The righteousness of thy testimony is everlasting; give me understanding and I shall live." Without this he knew that he could have no benefit by the everlasting righteousness of the testimonies of God. All understanding, indeed, however it be abused by the most, is the work and effect of the Holy Ghost, for "the inspiration of the Almighty gives understanding" (Job. 32:8). So is this spiritual understanding in an especial manner the gift of God. In this "understanding" both the ability of our mind and the due exercise of it is included. This one consideration--that the saints of God have with so much earnestness prayed that God would give them understanding as to his mind and will as revealed in the word, with his reiterated promises that he would so do--is of more weight with me than all the disputes of men to the contrary. No farther argument is necessary to prove that men do not understand the mind of God in the Scripture in a due manner than their supposal and confidence that so they can do without the communication of a spiritual understanding unto them by the Holy Spirit. This self-confidence is directly contrary unto the plain, express testimonies of the word. (John Owen)

"I have longed for thy salvation, O Yahweh,
And thy law is my delight."
(vs. 174)

"Salvation" by the "hand," or arm of Jehovah (which is often in scripture a title of Messiah), has been the object of the hopes, the desires, and "longing" expectations of the faithful from Adam to this hour, and will continue so to be until he who has already visited us in great humility shall come again in glorious majesty to complete our redemption and take us to himself. (George Horne)

"Thy law is my delight." Here David chooses the term "law" for denoting the whole revelation of God's will to remind us of the inseparable connection between privilege and duty, faith and obedience, holiness and comfort; and to teach us that we ought to be thankful to God for the direction he has given us in the road to heaven no less than for the promises by which we are assured of the possession of it. (Robert Walker)

Religion will decay or flourish as it is our duty or our delight. The mind is incapable of continued exertion for duty; but it readily falls in with "delight." Thus our duties become our privileges while Christ is their source and life. Every step of progress is progress in happiness. This verse (of which experience is the best interpreter) is the believer's language in his lively as well as in his fainting state. For the more he knows and enjoys of the Divine presence, the more he longs to know and enjoy it. (Charles Bridges)

"I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek your servant,
For I do not forget your commandments."
(vs. 176)

Gotthold one day saw a farmer carefully counting his sheep as they came from the field. Happening at the time to be in an anxious and sorrowful mood, he gave vent to his feelings and said: "Why are you cast down, my soul, and why disquieted with vexing thoughts? Surely you must be dear to the Most High, as his lambs are to this farmer. Are you not better than many sheep? Is not Jesus Christ your shepherd? Has not he risked his blood and life for you? Have you no interest [claim] in his words, 'I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand'? This man is numbering his flock, and do you think that God does not also count and care for his believing children and elect, especially as his beloved Son has averred that the very hairs of our head are all numbered?" During the day I may perhaps have gone out of the way and heedlessly followed my own devices. Still, at the approach of evening when the faithful shepherd counts his lambs, he will mark my absence and graciously seek and bring me back. Lord Jesus, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments." (Christian Scriver in Gotthold's Emblems)

I do not think that there could possibly be a more appropriate conclusion of such a Psalm as this, so full of the varied experience and the ever-changing frames and feelings even of a child of God (in the sunshine and the cloud, in the calm and in the storm) than this ever-clinging sense of his propensity to wander, and the expression of his utter inability to find his way back without the Lord's guiding hand to restore him. And at the same time with it all, his fixed and abiding determination never to forget the Lord's commandments. What an insight into our poor wayward hearts does this verse give us--not merely liable to wander, but ever wandering, ever losing our way, ever stumbling on the dark mountains even while cleaving to God's commandments! But at the same time what a prayer does it put into our mouths: "Seek thy servant,"--"I am thine, save me." Yes, blessed be God, there is One mighty to save! "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." (Barton Bouchier)

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