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Psalm 119:25-32

ד 25. My soul cleaveth to the dust: quicken me according to thy word. ד 26. I have declared my ways, and thou didst answer me: teach me thy statutes. ד 27. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: and I will meditate on thy wonderful works. ד 28. My soul, droppeth 407407     My soul may here be considered equivalent to I myself. In Jeremiah 51:14, by my soul is rendered, in our English translation, by myself. away for grief: 408408     “Mon ame s’escoule goutte a goutte.” — Fr. “Floweth drop by drop.” Walford, who translates “is bowed down,” considers Calvin’s translation objectionable, as it does not correspond with the prayer in the succeeding sentence, Raise me up according to thy word. “The Vulgar translation of this clause,” says he, “‘my soul melteth,’ or, as other interpreters think, ‘my soul is dissolved into tears,’ appears to be inadmissible, chiefly on account of the next clause. Dathe, following Driessenius, Knapp, and Seiler, explains it, as is here done, by ‘is bowed down,’ a sense which the word דלף has in the Arabic use of it, and which certainly agrees with the connection much better than that of weeping or dissolving.” raise me up according to thy word. ד 29. Take away from me the way of falsehood: and grant to me the favor of thy law. ד 30. I have chosen the way of truth: and I have set thy judgments before me. ד 31. I have cleaved to thy testimonies: O Jehovah! let me, not be ashamed. ד 32. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt have enlarged my heart.

 

25. My soul cleaveth to the dust 409409     The original word for my soul might here, as in verse 28, be translated I myself, or my life, and then, cleaving to the dust may imply an apprehension of approaching death; and this agrees best with the petition. “By dust is here probably meant the sepulchre or grave, as in Psalm 22:15, 29, so that the Psalmist is to be understood to say, ‘The dangers which surround me are such as threaten my death;’ and he immediately adds, ‘Revive me according to thy word,’ i.e., Make me glad by delivering me from these perils, in agreement with the promises which thou hast given me.” — Walford He means that he had no more hope of life than if he had been shut up in the tomb; and this must be carefully attended to, that we my not become impatient and grieved, whenever it may please God to make us endure various kinds of death. And, by his own example, he instructs us, when death stares us in the face, and all hope of escape fails, to present our petitions to God, in whose hand, as we have elsewhere seen, are the issues of death, and whose peculiar prerogative it is to restore life to those that are dead, (Psalm 68:21) As the combat is hard, he betakes himself to the promises of God, and invites others to do the same. The expression, according to thy word, 410410     Arnobins and Augustine interpret thy word as signifying, in this place, thy promise. See verse 28, and Psalm 44:25. is an acknowledgment, that should he depart from God’s word, no hope would be left for him; but as God has affirmed that the life of the faithful is in his hand, and under his protection, shut up as he was in the grave, he yet comforted himself with the expectation of life.

26. I have declared my ways. In the first part of this verse he affirms he had prayed sincerely, and had not imitated the proud, who, trusting to their own wisdom, fortitude, and opulence, make not God their refuge. That man is said to declare his ways to God, who presumes neither to attempt nor undertake any thing unless with His assistance, and, depending wholly on His providence, commits all his plans to His sovereign pleasure, and centers all his affections in Him; doing all this honestly, and not as the hypocrites, who profess one thing with their lips, and conceal another within their hearts. He adds, that he was heard, which was of great importance in making him cherish good hope for the future.

In the second part of the verse he solemnly declares, that he holds nothing more dear than the acquiring of a true understanding of the law. There are not a few who make known their desires unto God, but then they would that he would yield to their extravagant passions. And, therefore, the prophet affirms that he desires nothing more than to be well instructed in God’s statutes. This statement is strengthened by the next verse, in which he once more asks the knowledge of these to be communicated to him. In both passages it must be carefully observed, that with the law of God set before us, we will reap little benefit from merely perusing it, if we have not his Spirit as our internal teacher.

Some expositors will have the word which I have translated, I will meditate, to be, I will entreat or argue, and thus the Hebrew term שוח, shuach, is referred both to the words and thoughts. The latter meaning is most in accordance with the scope of the passage. I take the import of the prophet’s words to be this: — That I may meditate upon thy wondrous works, make me to understand thy commandments. We will have no relish for the law of God until he sanctify our minds, and render them susceptible of tasting heavenly wisdom. And from this disrelish springs indifference, so that it is a grievous thing for the world to give a respectful attention to the law of God, having no savor for the admirable wisdom contained in it. With great propriety, therefore, does the prophet pray that this way may be opened to him by the gift of knowledge. From these words we are instructed, that in proportion to the spirit of knowledge given to us, our regard for the law of God, and our delight in meditating on it, ought to increase.

28. My soul droppeth away for grief As a little before he said that his soul cleaved to the dust, so now, almost in the same manner, he complains that it melted away with grief. Some are of opinion that he alludes to tears, as if he had said that his soul was dissolved in tears. But the simpler meaning is, that his strength was poured out like water. The verb is in the future tense, yet it denotes a continued action. The prophet assures himself of a remedy for this his extreme sorrow, provided God stretch out his hand towards him. Formerly, when almost lifeless, he entertained the expectation of a revival through the grace of God; now also, by the same means, he cherishes the hope of being restored to renovated and complete vigor, notwithstanding he was nearly consumed. He repeats the expression, according to thy word, because, apart from his word, God’s power would afford us little comfort. But when he comes to our aid, even should our courage and strength fail, his promise is abundantly efficacious to fortify us.

29. Take away from me the way of falsehood. Knowing how prone the nature of man is to vanity and falsehood, he first asks the sanctification of his thoughts, lest, being entangled by the snares of Satan, he fall into error. Next, that he may be kept from falsehood, he prays to be fortified with the doctrine of the law. The second clause of the verse is interpreted variously. Some render it, make thy law pleasant to me. And as the law is disagreeable to the flesh, which it subdues and keeps under, there is good cause why God should be asked to render it acceptable and pleasant to us. Some expound it, have mercy upon me according to thy law as if the prophet should draw pity from the fountain-head itself, because God in his law promised it to the faithful. Both of these meanings appear to me forced; and, therefore, I am more disposed to adopt another, freely grant to me thy law. The original term, חנני channeni, cannot be translated otherwise in Latin than, gratify thou me; an uncouth and barbarous expression I admit, yet that will give me: little concern, provided my readers comprehend the prophet’s meaning. 411411     “On pourroit dire en francois, Donne moy gratuitement.” — Fr. “One can say in French, Give me gratuitously.” The amount is, that being full of blindness, nothing is more easy than for us to be greatly deceived by error. And, therefor unless God teach us by the Spirit of wisdom, we will presently be hurried away into various errors. The means of our being preserved from error are stated to consist in his instructing us in his law. He makes use of the term to gratify. “It is indeed an incomparable kindness that men are directed by thy law, but in consequence of thy kindness being unmerited, I have no hesitation in asking of thee to admit me as a participator of this thy kindness.” If the prophet, who for some time previous served God, in now aspiring after farther attainments, does not ask for a larger measure of grace to be communicated to him meritoriously, but confesses it to be the free gift of God, then that impious tenet, which obtains in the papacy, that an increase of grace is awarded to merit as deserving of it, must fall to the ground.

30. I have chosen the way of truth. In this and the following verse he affirms that he was so disposed as to desire nothing more than to follow righteousness and truth. It is, therefore, with great propriety he employs the term to choose. The old adage, that man’s life is as it were at the point where two ways meet, refers not simply to the general tenor of human life, but to every particular action of it. For no sooner do we undertake any thing, no matter how small, than we are grievously perplexed, and as if hurried off by a tempest, are confounded by conflicting counsels. Hence the prophet declares, that in order constantly to pursue the right path, he had resolved and fully determined not to relinquish the truth. And thus he intimates that he was not entirely exempted from temptations, yet that he had surmounted them by giving himself up to the conscientious observance of the law.

The last clause of the verse, I have set thy judgments before me, relates to the same subject. There would be no fixed choice on the part of the faithful, unless they steadily contemplate the law, and did not suffer their eyes to wander to and fro. In the subsequent verse he not only asserts his entertaining this holy affection for the law, but also combines it with prayer, that he might not become ashamed and enfeebled under the derision of the ungodly, while he gave himself wholly to the law of God. Here he employs the same term as formerly, when he said his soul cleaved to the dust, and, in doing so, affirms he had so firmly taken hold of God’s law, that he cannot be separated from it. From his expressing a fear lest he might be put to shame or overwhelmed with reproach, we learn that the more sincerely a man surrenders himself to God, the more will he be assailed by the tongues of the vile and the venomous.

32 I will run the way of thy commandments. The meaning of the prophet is, that when God shall inspire him with love for his la he will be vigorous and ready, nay, even steady, so as not to faint in the middle of his course. His words contain an implied admission of the supineness inability of men to make any advancement in well-doing until God enlarge their hearts. No sooner does God expand their hearts, than they are fitted not only for walking, but also for running in the way of his commandments. He reminds us that the proper observance of the law consists not merely in external works, — that it demands willing obedience, so that the heart must, to some extent, and in some way, enlarge itself. Not that it has the self-determining power of doing this, but when once its hardness and obstinacy are subdued, it moves freely without being any longer contracted by its own narrowness. Finally, this passage tells us, when God has once enlarged our hearts, there will be no lack of power, because, along with proper affection, he will furnish ability, so that our feet will be ready to run.


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