My tongue shall speak of thy Word ; or, "let my tongue respond to thy promise "—return praise, i . e ; for the fulfillment of thy promise. For all thy commandments are righteousness . And therefore are worthy objects of praise.
These verses may bring before us the successive stages of salvation.
I. SEEKING AFTER GOD . ( Psalms 119:169 , Psalms 119:170 , Psalms 119:174 .) The heart "longs for salvation;" it "cries for deliverance;" it looks to God under a deep and strong sense of danger and of need. Then comes—
II. OUR CHOICE . ( Psalms 119:173 .) The decisive hour comes when we have finally and fixedly to determine whether we will or will not accept Jesus Christ for our Divine Lord and Savior; whether or not we will spend our days and our powers in his service. The crisis of our cause is past when we can say, "I have chosen thy precepts;" I have chosen to do "the will of God in Christ Jesus."
III. A LIFE OF SUSTAINED DEVOTION . As the psalmist's prayer intersperses his other utterances, so should devotion blend with our outward life, sanctifying and ennobling it. Especially should we be constantly looking for Divine help ( Psalms 119:173 ), that we may be enabled to do our duty faithfully, to bear our burden meekly, to resist temptation manfully and successfully, to use our opportunity wisely and devotedly.
IV. OUR CONFESSION OF PARTIAL FAILURE . ( Psalms 119:176 .) This wandering (of the text) is not the first departure of the soul from God, the going away into the "far country" of estrangement or rebellion; it is rather the deviation of the good man from the straight line of holy service, calling for recognition and return to the favor of God. "If we (Christian disciples) say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." If, when we thus err, when we "go astray," we "confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee" ( Psalms 32:6 ). It is a very great point in Christian life to understand and to acknowledge our error, our partial failure, our need of the Divine hand to lead us back into the path of righteousness and wisdom.
1. Recognizing the supreme excellency of Divine truth, its intrinsic worth, and its power to save and heal, "our tongue will speak God's Word." From the sustained and prepared discourse to the humble dialogue and the parting word of warning or encouragement, true service may be rendered to our Lord.
2. Taught God's will by his Spirit as well as his Word, our soul as well as our body alive because quickened by Divine power, our heart and our mouth will be filled with praise. Prayer and praise will be the two accompaniments that will never fail, along all the path of life, until the witness is borne, and the work is done, and the reward is ready.
Meditation: its place in Christian culture.
In these days and in this country we may speak of meditation as a lost art, if not, indeed, as a lost faculty. We have become incapable of sustained thought, of prolonged consideration of Divine truth. Even with the aid of a well-studied and well-spoken discourse, and the presence of sympathetic fellow-listeners, it is found difficult to maintain continuous attention for more than half an hour once or twice a week. The psalmist again and again recurs to this sacred duty; he speaks of it as a much-prized privilege. The best men of Old and New Testament times were men of meditation as well as of action—Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Nehemiah, John Baptist, St. Paul, John the apostle—all of these illustrate the truth. Our Lord himself sought the mountain fold for solitude and communion with his own heart and with his Father. The best men that have lived and wrought during this Christian era have been men that found time for contemplation, and for the devotion in which that reaches its highest point. In a time and a land where action is felt to be everything; where there is a multitude of distractions; where every hour may easily be occupied with some lawful or even laudable activity; where a positive effort has to be made to secure a quiet hour;—there is serious danger lest our Christian character suffer from want of earnest and devout meditation.
I. THE TWO THINGS ON WHICH TO DWELL . These are God's Word and our own "ways." We should meditate on God's statutes or precepts; we should "think on our ways." What a field for thought is here ] The nature and the character and the work of God as revealed in sacred history and in Jesus Christ; the truth spoken to us by our Lord, and written for our learning by inspired men; the ways in which Divine truth has been illustrated and enforced in human history; the path along which God has led us; the witness we have borne, and the work we have done; the failure to become and to effect what we might have been and have done; the lessening distance before us this side the grave; the immortal life beyond, etc.
II. THE STATE OR ACT IN WHICH IT CULMINATES . In prayer. Meditation is the best friend of devotion; it is its source and safeguard. There is much that passes for prayer which, in the absence of meditation, is only mechanical repetition; there is no real meditation which does not pass into genuine, acceptable, fruitful prayer.
III. ITS PRACTICAL ISSUE . "I turned my feet," etc. (verse 59). To be nothing at all but a thinker, or even a student, is a sad mistake. We must come forth from the chamber of communion to the field of conflict. But there is little danger now of too much seclusion. Much serious consideration, passing into prayer, is the best preparation for the "world's broad field of battle," for the dangers to be dared and the duties to be done.
Introductory to whole psalm.
I. WHOM WAS IT WRITTEN BY ?
1. Some assert that it is David ' s work . They profess to be able to find proofs of his style and manner, and there is no limit to the laudations they pass on this psalm; but extravagant rhetoric proves nothing.
2. But all the chief and most reliable of expositors refuse to admit the Davidic authorship . The style is far later than that of David. In the Lamentations of Jeremiah there is a similar alphabetical composition. It is altogether an artificial and didactic composition, widely different from that which we have most reason to assign to the age and pen of David. Moreover, so far as we know, that general reading of the Law, which this psalm presupposes, could not have been without the wide circulation of copies of the Law. But of such circulation we have no evidence until the time of Ezra. Moreover, the life of David, as it is portrayed in the Scriptures, seems quite out of keeping with the tone, spirit, and allusions of this psalm.
3. It is not possible to name any individual person as the author . But we gather from the psalm that it was written by a devoted servant of God, whoever be may have been; that he was probably a young man—one of those of whom St. John would say, "I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong, and have overcome the wicked one." Verses 9, 99, 100, warrant the supposition that he was young. But, nevertheless, deeply taught of God to love the Word of God, and to continually feed upon it. Very lowly minded and humble before God. See the general tone of the psalm, and especially the last eight verses. He seems to have been much tried (verses 21, 23, 36, 37). His one fear being lest he should prove unworthy, and be ashamed (verses 6, 7, 22, 31), If we were to look for one in whom the various conditions of authorship meet, we should turn to the Book of Daniel; either he himself, or one of those three noble Hebrew youths his book tells of, might well have been the writer of this psalm.
II. WHEREFORE IT WAS WRITTEN .
1. Perhaps as a memoir of the writer ' s own experience , and for his own help.
2. But yet more probably for the instruction of others . Hence the alphabetic, acrostic style, which was adopted as an aid to memory; just as preachers now divide their sermons into various heads.
3. And for the glory of God— that his grace might be praised.
4. For the commendation of the Word of God . The psalmist would bear his emphatic testimony to the preciousness of that Word.
5. And for the stirring up of those who should read the psalm to diligent search for the treasures of that Word . Personal testimony such as is so largely given in this psalm has ever great power over the minds of others.
III. ITS GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS .
1. It is from a believer to believers . The infidel and scoffer are not contemplated in the design of the psalm.
2. It is for the edification and growth in holiness of the people of God .
3. It is intensely spiritual . Rites and ceremonies and appeals to the mere reason are absent from it; it speaks to the soul.
4. It is universal in character . Limited to no one period, to no one land, to no one nation, but for all.
5. Its spiritual force and power are witnessed to by the God-fearing of all ages . — S.C.
Characteristics of the Word of God as declared by the various names given to it in this psalm.
There are eight such names.
I. IT IS CALLED THE " LAW ." ( Psalms 119:1 , Psalms 119:18 , Psalms 119:34 , etc.) The word implies that which rules guides, directs, therefore a rule of conduct. And this was evidently the psalmist's meaning, God's Word was not something to be merely talked about, praised, or argued over, but it was to order a man's life, and be his constant guide.
II. " TESTIMONIES ." The word signifies that which bears witness to. And the Word of God is this.
1. It bears witness to us of God , and of his will concerning us; and:
2. It bears witness to our hearts of the acceptableness or wrong of our lives and conduct in the sight of God. It will ever bear true testimony, which it is at our peril if we neglect. By it God's sentence upon us will be determined.
III. " PRECEPTS ." This expression comes from a word which signifies "that which is entrusted to us." And so God's Word is the deposit of faith, which we are to keep and guard. St. Paul declared, at the end of his career, "I have kept the faith;" and he exhorted Timothy to "keep that which was committed unto" him. We shall be asked at the last what we have done with this precious entrustment. God's words to us are the talents which, whilst he is absent from our sight, we are to "occupy," that is, trade with, until the Lord comes.
IV. " STATUTES ." The term is derived from a word which tells of that which is engraved, definitely and clearly drawn, as a chart, a map, and so prescribes the way that is to be taken. And is not this true of the Word of God? Is it not ever saying to us, "This is the way, walk ye in it "? How clear and plain is the course it marks out for us! And, perhaps, the psalmist thought also of the depth and clearness with which this word is written on the human heart, and especially on the believing heart. There God has engraved deeply and definitely his will for us. Christ, the Word, is the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
V. " COMMANDMENTS ." That which is ordained, as the commander of an army orders what is to be done. God's people are the army of the living God, and in this holy war success is only to be gained by strict and diligent obedience to his commands.
VI. " JUDGMENTS ." This expression is used of the verdict in a court of law, that which has legal sanction, and which governs the sentence of the judge. And so the Word of God is the Divine sentence, and is in accordance with the law of nature, of reason, and of righteousness. Who are we to set up our flimsy ideas against the precedents, principles, and judgments of the righteous Judge?
VII. " WORD ." ( Psalms 119:9 , Psalms 119:11 , Psalms 119:17 , etc.) This answers to that sacred name of Christ, who is the Word of God. It tells, not of a written letter, a series of documents drawn up by men; but it is that inner word of God which the spirit of man hears—it may be through the written or spoken Word, but it may be also independently of either. It is that Word which, if not heard, no preaching or teaching of man is of any avail. This is the Word we need to hear.
VIII. " WAY ." The road, the course, the path, along which God himself walks, and that in which he would have us walk. And that the Word of God is. It is the way of holiness, the King's highway, and blessed are they that walk therein.—S.C.
The humility of holiness.
We suppose no one can have gone through this psalm but must have come more and more to the conviction that the writer of it was a true saint of God. The signs and tokens of true holiness of character could scarcely be more manifest than they are in this psalm. But now that he comes to the close, instead of there being any note of exultation or glorying because of his attainments in holiness, there is the profoundest humility. We might have expected a tone of triumph and elation, but it is quite the reverse that we find. There is impassioned fervor in prayer, but no glorying; there is the same constant longing for deeper understanding of God's Word, which we have met with all through; but no self-congratulation that he has gained it; there is the same confession of his need and prayer for deliverance, for help, for life; and there is a lowlier confession still; for in the last verse of the psalm he speaks not merely as an afflicted soul, but as one who has gone astray like a lost sheep, and who therefore craves that God should seek after him. And the different sentences of this prayer are all in keeping with this humility of heart which characterizes this great saint of God. He speaks of his prayer as his "cry," as his "supplication"—that which a beggar would present to one who could befriend him. He disclaims the possession of understanding of God's Word, but prays that it may be given him. He takes the position of one who has no right to come before God, and asks that he may "come near," He makes no plea of merit or goodness of his own, but his hope is ever "according to thy Word." He deems himself powerless to praise God until taught of God. It is all of a piece, all the utterance of a profoundly humble soul. Now, concerning this humility, note—
I. WHENCE IT SPRINGS .
1. From the effect on the mind of his afflictions . If we would have the grace of humility, we must be content to be humbled; and so precious is this grace in God's sight, that he sends affliction for this very end.
2. From his advance in the knowledge of God . No human soul can thus perseveringly seek God without coming into very close contact and converse with him; but the result of that is ever the prostration of the soul in adoring humility (cf. Isaiah 6:1-13 .; Luke 5:8 ; Revelation 1:1-20 .). The vision of God's infinite holiness and glory bows down the soul of the beholder. But such vision had often been before the mind of the psalmist—seems to have been especially so here, when drawing to the close of this psalm.
3. From the longing after God ' s salvation . Earnest desire is ever lowly.
II. HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS !
1. Because it is just and becoming to man in relation to God . It is what it should be. The opposite of it is revolting to the mind.
2. Because we are made instinctively to admire it .
III. AND HOW DESIRABLE !
1. It has ever been a distinguishing mark of God ' s saints .
2. It is well pleasing to God . He delights in it; will dwell with him in whom it is.
3. It is such sure safeguard for all other virtues of holy character.—S.C.
1. TORAH , "the Law" itself; but not merely the Law given on Mount Sinai; rather, God's law in the widest sense, all whereby he has intimated his will to man.
2. ' EDVOTH , or ' EDOTH , "testimonies." God's commands, considered as witnesses to his character, and as attesting his will.
3. MISHPATIM , "judgments." Judicial pronouncements by act or word against particular lines of conduct.
4. KHUQQIM , "statutes"—once translated "ordinances" ( Psalms 119:91 ). Enactments of God as Legislator, but not confined to the written Law.
5. DABAR or DEBARIM , "God's Word" or "Words." His actual spoken or written utterances.
6. PIQQUDIM , "precepts." Instructions given to men to direct their conduct.
7. MITSROTH , "commandments." Only slightly differing from piqqudim—rather wider.
8. IMRAH , properly "promise," but used rather as a variant, instead of dabar , and extending to all God's utterances.
9. DAREK or DEEAKIM , "way" Or "ways." Prescribed lines of conduct (very seldom used).
The synonyms from 1 to 8 occur, each of them twenty times, or oftener, in the psalm. Darek ( derakim ) occurs only four times. Emunah , which has been called a synonym (Kay), scarcely deserves to be so considered. It is only wanted as a synonym once ( Psalms 119:90 ). The excellence of "the Law" is considered in almost every possible aspect.
א ALEPH .