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Psalm 119: 65-72

ט 65. O Jehovah! thou hast done good to thud servant, according to thy word. ט 66. Teach, thee goodness of taste and knowledge: for I have believed the commandments. ט 67. Before I was brought low I went astray: but now I keep thy word. ט 68. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes. ט 69. The proud have weaved lies against me: but I will keel, thy statutes with my whole heart. ט 70. Their heart is fat as grease: but I delight in thy law. ט 71. It has been good for me that I was affected; that I might learn thy statutes. ט 72. The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.

 

65. O Jehovah! thou hast done good to thy servant. Some understand this generally, as if the prophet protested that, in whatever way God dealt with him, he took it in good part, convinced that it would ultimately issue in his welfare; but as express mention is made of the Divine word or promise, the prophet, I have no doubt, celebrates the faithfulness of God in performing the grace which he had promised. I have really experienced (as if he had said) that Thou art true, and dost not delude thy servants with empty words. Special reference is therefore here made to God’s promises, because thence all his benefits flow to us, not, indeed, as from the original fountain-head, but, as it were, by conduit pipes. Although his free goodness is the only cause which induces him to deal bountifully with us, yet we can hope for nothing at his hand until he first bring himself under obligation to us by his word.

66. Teach me goodness of taste and acknowledge After having confessed that he had found, by experience, the faithfulness of God to his promises, David here adds a request similar to what is contained in the 64th verse, namely, that he may grow in right understanding; although the phraseology is somewhat different; for instead of thy statutes, as in that verse, he here uses goodness of taste and knowledge. As the verb טעם taam, signifies to taste, the noun which is derived from it properly denotes taste It is, however, applied to the mind. David, there is no doubt, prays that knowledge, accompanied with sound discretion and judgment, might. be imparted to him. Those who read, disjunctively, goodness and taste, mar the whole sentence. It is, however, necessary, in order to our arriving at the full meaning, that the latter clause should be added. He asserts that he believed God’s commandments, in other words, that he cheerfully embraced whatever is prescribed in the law; and thus he describes himself as docile and obedient. As it was by the guidance of the Holy Spirit that he became thus inclined to obedience, he pleads that another gift may be bestowed upon him — the gift of a sound taste and good understanding. Whence we learn, that these two things, right affection and good understanding, are indispensably necessary to the due regulation of the life. The prophet already believed God’s commandments; but his veneration for the law, proceeding from a holly zeal, led him to desire conformity to it, and made him afraid, and not without cause, of inconsiderately going astray. Let us then learn, that after God has framed our hearts to the obedience of his law, we must, at the same time, ask wisdom from him by which to regulate our zeal.

67. Before I was brought low I went astray As the verb ענה anah, sometimes signifies to speak, or to testify, some adopt this rendering, Before I meditated upon thy statutes I went astray; but this seems too forced. Others go still farther from the meaning, in supposing it to be, that when the prophet went astray, he had nothing to say in answer to God. I will not stop to refute these conceits, there being no ambiguity in the words. David in his own person describes either that wantonness or rebellion, common to all mankind, which is displayed in this, that we never yield obedience to God until we are compelled by his chastisements. It is indeed a monstrous thing obstinately to refuse to submit ourselves to Him; and yet experience demonstrates, that so long as he deals gently with us, we are always breaking forth into insolence. Since even a prophet of God required to have his rebellion corrected by forcible means, this kind of discipline is assuredly most needful for us. The first step in obedience being the mortifying of the flesh, to which all men are naturally disinclined, it is not surprising if God bring us to a sense of our duty by manifold afflictions. Yea, rather as the flesh is from time to time obstreperous, even when it seems to be tamed, it is no wonder to find him repeatedly subjecting us anew to the rod. This is done in different ways. He humbles some by poverty, some by shame, some by diseases, some by domestic distresses, some by hard and painful labors; and thus, according to the diversity of vices to which we are prone, he applies to each its appropriate remedy. It is now obvious how profitable a truth this confession contains. The prophet speaks of himself even as Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 31:18,) in like manner, says of himself, that he was “as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke;but still he sets before us an image of the rebellion which is natural to us all. We are very ungrateful, indeed, if this fruit which we reap from chastisements do not assuage or mitigate their bitterness. So long as we are rebellious against God, we are, in a state of the deepest wretchedness: now, the only means by which He bends and tames us to obedience, is his instructing us by his chastisements. The prophet, at the same time, teaches us by his own example, that since God gives evidence of his willingness that we should become his disciples, by the pains he takes to subdue our hardness, we should at least endeavor to become gentle, and, laying aside all stubbornness, willingly bear the yoke which he imposes upon us.

The next verse needs no explanation, being nearly of the same import as the last verse of the former eight. He beseeches God to exercise his goodness towards him, not by causing him to increase in riches and honors, or to abound in pleasures, but by enabling him to make progress in the knowledge of the law. It is usual for almost all mankind to implore the exercise of God’s goodness towards them, and to desire that he would deal bountifully with them, in the way of gratifying the diversity of the desires into which they are severally hurried by the inclinations of the flesh; but David protests that he would be completely satisfied, provided he experienced God to be liberal towards him in this one particular, which almost all men pass over with disdain.

69. The proud have weaved 424424     Archbishop Secker reads, “made up.” “It signifies,” says he, “fastening things together.” lies against me He declares that, notwithstanding the malignant interpretation which the wicked put upon all that he did, and their attempts, by this artifice, to turn him aside from following after and loving uprightness, the state of his mind remained unaltered. It is a severe temptation, when, although innocent, we are loaded with reproach and infamy, and are not only assailed by injurious words, but also held up to the odium of the world by wicked persons, under some specious pretense or other. We see many who otherwise are good people, and inclined to live uprightly, either become discouraged, or are greatly shaken, when they find themselves so unworthily rewarded. On this account the prophet’s example is the more to be attended t that we may not be appalled by the malignity of men; that we may not cease to nourish within us the fear of God, even when they may have succeeded in destroying our reputation in the sight of our fellow-creatures; and that we may be contented to have our piety shining at the judgment-scat of God, although it may be defaced by the calumnies of men. So long as we depend upon the judgment of men, we will always be in a state of fluctuation, as has been already observed. Farther, let our works be never so splendid, we know that they will be of no account in the sight of God, if, in performing them, our object is to gain the favor of the world. Let us therefore learn to cast our eyes to that heavenly stage, and to despise all the malicious reports which men may spread against us. Let us leave the children of this world to, enjoy their reward, since our crown is laid up for us in heaven, and not on the earth. Let us disentangle ourselves from the snares with which Satan endeavors to obstruct us, by patiently bearing infamy for a season. The verb טפל, taphal, which otherwise signifies to join together, is here, by an elegant metaphor, taken for to weave, or to trim; intimating that the enemies of the prophet not only loaded him with coarse reproaches, but also invented crimes against him, and did so with great cunning and color of truth, that he might seem to be the blackest of characters. But though they ceased not to weave for him this web, he was enabled to break through it by his invincible constancy; and, exercising a strict control over his heart, he continued faithfully to observe the law of God. He applies to them the appellation of proud; and the reason of this, it may be conjectured, is, that the persons of whom he speaks were not the common people, but great men, who inflated with confidence in their honors and riches, rose up against him with so much the more audacity. He evidently intimates that they trampled him under their feet by their proud disdain, just as if he had been a dead dog.

With this corresponds the statement in the subsequent verse (70th) that their heart is fat as grease, 425425     The fat of the human body, as physiologists inform us, is absolutely insensible; the lean membranous parts being those only which are sensitive. Accordingly, fatness of heart is used, with much propriety, to express the insensibility, stupidity, or sensuality of those feelings or affections of which the heart is considered the seat. a vice too common among the despisers of God. Whence is it that wicked men, whom their own conscience gnaws within, vaunt themselves so insolently against the most eminent servants of God, but because a certain grossness overgrows their hearts, so that they are stupefied, and even frenzied by their own obstinacy? But wonderful and worthy of the highest praise is the magnanimity of the prophet, who found all his delight in the law of God: it is as if he declared that this was the food on which he fed, and with which he was refreshed in the highest degree; which could not have been the case had not his heart been freed, and thoroughly cleansed from all unhallowed pleasures.

71. It has been good for me that I was afflicted. He here confirms the sentiment which we have previously considered — that it was profitable to him to be subdued by God’s chastisements, that he might more and more be brought back and softened to obedience. By these words he confesses that he was not exempt from the perverse obstinacy with which all mankind are infected; for, had it been otherwise with him, the profit of which he speaks, when he says that his docility was owing to his being brought low, would have been merely pretended; even as none of us willingly submits his neck to God, until He soften our natural hardness by the strokes of a hammer. It is good for us to taste continually the fruit which comes to us from God’s corrections, that they may become sweet to us; and that, in this way, we, who are so rebellious and wayward, may suffer ourselves to be brought into subjection.

The last verse also requires no exposition, as it contains a sentiment of very frequent occurrence in this psalm, and, in itself, sufficiently plain, — That he preferred God’s law to all the riches of the world, the immoderate desire of which so deplorably infatuates the great bulk of mankind. He does not compare the law of God with the riches he himself possessed; but he affirms, that it was more precious in his estimation than a vast inheritance.


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