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Psalm 119:41-48

ו 41. And let thy mercies come to me, O Jehovah! and thy salvation, according to thy word. ו 42. And I will answer a word to him who reproacheth me, because I have trusted in thy word. ו 43. And take not the word of truth too long out, of my mouth, because I hope for thy judgments. ו 44. And I will keep thy law always, even for ever and ever. ו 45. And I will walk at ease; 413413     “Au large.” — Fr. because I have sought thy statutes. ו 46. And I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed. ו 47. And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. ו 48. And I will lift up my hands to thy statutes, which I have loved, and will meditate on thy precepts.

 

41. Let thy mercies come to me There can be no doubt, that, in mentioning the mercy of God first, and afterwards his salvation, the Psalmist, according to the natural order, puts the cause before the effect. By adopting this arrangement, he acknowledges that there is no salvation for him but in the pure mercy of God. And while he desires a gracious salvation, he, at the same time, relies on the promise, as we have already elsewhere seen.

In the second verse he boasts that he is furnished with the best defense against the calumnies of his enemies, arising from his trust in the word of God. We may resolve the future tense into the optative mood, as many do: O Lord, since I have trusted in thy word, grant that my mouth with all boldness may repel the slanders which they utter against me, and suffer me not to be silent when they load me with unmerited reproach.” Whichever of these meanings we adopt, we are taught that there will always be evil-speakers, who will not cease to defame the children of God, though they be entirely undeserving of such treatment. It is somewhat dubious to what particular kind of reproach he refers; for the ungodly not only cover the children of God with ignominy, but also make their faith the subject of ridicule. I prefer the following interpretation, because it agrees best with the context, and David is here placing his trust in God in opposition to their derision. “I shall have something to reply to the base mockery of the enemies who injure me without cause, in that God never disappoints those who place their confidence in him.” If any one be inclined to consider the passage as embracing both meanings, I offer no objection to it. Besides, he does not simply say, that he trusted in God, but that he also trusted in his word, which is the ground of his trust. We must carefully attend to the correspondence and mutual relation between the term word, in the first part of the verse, and that in the other. Were not God, by his Word, to furnish us with another word for our defense, we would instantly be overwhelmed with the insolence of our enemies. If, then, we wish to be proof against the attacks of the world, the commencement and foundation of our magnanimity is here pointed out to us, — our trusting in God’s word, guarded by which, the Spirit of God calls upon us boldly to contemn the virulent blasphemies of the ungodly. And to qualify us for repelling such blasphemies, he connects the word of hope with the word of confession.

43. Take not the word of truth too long out of my mouth 414414     “O take not, etc. This verse seems to admit of either of the two following interpretations: ‘Suffer me not to desist utterly from making an open profession of true religion; for I wait for thy promises:’ or, ‘Suffer me not to be reproached with falsehood, (for having asserted that thou wouldest take vengeance on the wicked,) because I have looked for thy judgments,’ i.e., thy penal judgments. Calvin favors the former interpretation, the latter is Le Clerc’s.” — Cresswell. Walford, by word, understands the answer that the Psalmist had to make to the accusations of his enemies: and observes, “This answer, which asserted his innocence of the crimes with which they charged him, he declares to be altogether true; and he entreats that God, as a judge, would not suffer him to be deprived of the benefit of that answer, but pronounce a righteous sentence between them.” It may be asked, why he demands rather to have his tongue filled with, than his heart fortified by, the word of truth; inasmuch as the latter takes the precedence, both in point of order and of excellence. What will it profit us to be fluent and eloquent in speech, if our hearts are destitute of faith? On the other hand, wherever there is firm faith, there to speech will flow ultroneously. My reply is, that David was not so concerned about outward confession as not to give the preference to the faith of the heart; but considering that he is making his address to God, there is nothing strange in his making mention only of the former, under which, however, he includes also the latter. “Lord, support not only my heart by faith, lest I be overwhelmed with temptation, but grant me also freedom of speech, that I may fearlessly sound forth thy praises among men.” We observe, when he asks to be endued with boldness of speech, that he begins with the heart.

It may be farther inquired here, why he says too long, just as if he were not afraid of being deprived of the word of truth for a short time. Such a supposition were most absurd, seeing we must watch every moment lest we be overtaken by the enemy, when we are unarmed and powerless. The solution of this difficulty must be drawn from our own experience; for in this, the infirmity of our flesh, it is almost impossible but that, occasionally, even the stoutest heart will quail under the violent assaults of Satan. And although their faith fails not, yet it shakes, and they do not find such presence of mind, as that there is constantly a uniform train of speech, and a prompt reply to the derision’s of the ungodly; but, on the contrary, they rather begin to stagger and quake for a short time. Conscious of this weakness, which is perceptible in all mankind, he accommodates his prayer in the following manner: “Though I am not always prepared with that boldness of speech which is desirable, suffer me not to continue long silent.” By this language the prophet tacitly admits, that he had not been so steadfast and bold as was requisite, but that he was, as it were, struck speechless by reason of fear. Whence we may learn, that the faculty of speaking freely is no more in our power than are the affections. of the heart. As far, then, as God directs our tongues, they are prepared for ready utterance; but no sooner does he withdraw the spirit of magnanimity, than not only our hearts faint, or rather fail, but also our tongues become mute. The cause of this is subjoined in these words, for I have waited for thy judgments for so he literally expresses himself. From which we conclude, that judgments refer not merely to the precepts of the law, but also to the promises, which constitute the true foundation of our confidence. Some render it, I was afraid of thy. judgments, deriving the word here employed from the root חול chul; which translation I am unable to say whether it be suitable or not. But of this I am certain, that to understand judgments as equivalent to punishments, is quite foreign to the design of the prophet.

44. I will keep thy law continually He resolves to devote himself to the study of the law, not for a short time only, but even to the termination of his life. The employing of three synonymous words, תמיד, tamid, עולם, olam, עד, ed, so far from being viewed as a superfluous accumulation of terms, contains an implied indication, that, unless the faithful make a strenuous and steady opposition, the fear of God may be gradually effaced from their minds by various temptations, and they will lose the affection which they bear for the law. In order, therefore, that he may be the better prepared for meeting these trials, he alludes to the difficulty and danger connected with them.

The next verse may be read as expressing a desire that he might walk. Be this as it may, we retain the commonly received reading, That David exults at the thought of his path becoming plain and easy, in consequence of his seeking diligently after God’s precepts; that is, to walk at ease The ways of men are frequently rugged and obstructed, because they themselves lay various stumblingblocks in them, or entangle themselves in many inextricable windings. Hence it comes to pass, that while none will submit to the word of God as their rule, every man endures the punishment legitimately due to such arrogance. On all sides God lays snares for us, puts pitfalls in our way, causes us to fall in with paths broken and rugged, and at last shuts us up in a bottomless pit: and by how much the more politic a mart is, by so much the more will he meet with obstructions in his path.

This verse teaches us that, if any man yield implicit obedience to God, he will receive this as his reward, that he shall walk with a calm and composed mind; and should he meet with difficulties, he will find the means of surmounting them. The faithful, however readily and submissively they give themselves up to God, may happen to find themselves involved in perplexity; nevertheless, the end contemplated by Paul is accomplished, that though they be in trouble and toil, yet they do not continue in irremediable distress, because it is the duty (so to speak) of God to point out a way for them where there seems to be no way, (2 Corinthians 4:8.) Moreover, when grievously oppressed, even then they walk at ease, for they commit the doubtful issue of events to God in such a manner, that, having him for their guide, they have no doubt they will come out boldly from the depths of distress.

46. And I will steal, of thy testimonies before kings 415415     “Dr Delaney supposes that this is spoken in reference to Achish, king of Gath, whom David had instructed in the Jewish religion: but we have already seen that it is most likely that the psalm was compiled under the Babylonish captivity. But the words may, with more propriety, be referred to the case of Daniel, and other bold and faithful Israelites, who spoke courageously before Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. See the Books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.” — Dr Adam Clarke. In these words he seems to believe that he is in possession of that which he formerly prayed for. Having said, “Take not away the word out of my mouths” and now, as if he had obtained what he requested, he rises up, and maintains he will not be dumb, even were he called upon to speak in the presence of kings. There can be no question that he affirms he would willingly stand forward in vindication of the glory of God in the face of the whole world. He selects kings, who are generally more to be dreaded than other men, and haughtily shut the mouths of God’s witnesses. Sometimes, indeed, it happens we will not hold out even in the presence of men in the humblest ranks of life. The moment a man sets himself in opposition to the word of God, we instinctively shrink back from fear; and that boldness of speech, of which we boasted at first, instantly disappears: but our want of courage is most palpable when we are summoned before the thrones of kings. And this is the reason why David asserts, that he will not only hold out against enemies among the meanest of men, but also will remain firm and fearless before kings. These words inform us that we have profited well and truly by God’s word, when our hearts are so completely fortified against the fear of man, that we do not dread the presence of kings, even though all the world attempts; to fill us with dejection and dismay. It is most unbecoming that God’s glory should be obscured by their empty splendor.

47. And I will delight myself The sentiment contained in this verse is similar to that which he had previously mentioned. The amount is, he held the commandments of God in such high esteem, that he experienced nothing more pleasant to him than the making of them his constant theme of meditation. By the term delight, he expresses the intensity of his love. The phrase I will lift up my hands, refers, to the same thing. It is a sure indication that we eagerly desire a thing when we stretch out the hands to grasp and enjoy it. This simile, therefor denotes the ardor of his desire. 416416     “The lifting up of the hands is used in Scripture to denote, first, praying, (Psalm 28:2; Lamentations 2:19; 1 Timothy 2:8;) secondly, blessing, (Leviticus 19:22; Psalm 22:4;) thirdly, swearing, (Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40; Psalm 106:26; Ezekiel 36:7; Revelation 10:5;) fourthly, setting about any undertaking, (Genesis 41:44; Psalm 10:13; Hebrews 12:12) Aben Ezra, however, explains, (and perhaps rightly,) that the metaphor, in this place, is taken from the action of those who receive any one whom they were glad or proud to see with uplifted hands.” — Cresswell. Merrick explains the phrase thus: “I will reach out my hands with eagerness, in order to receive thy commandments.” If a man, by his mien and gait pretend any such affection for the law of God, and yet pay no regard to it in the affairs of life, he would be justly chargeable with the basest hypocrisy. Again, he affirms, that that affection, so earnest and so ardent, springs from the sweetness of the law of God having knit our hearts to it. Finally, he says, he would meditate on God’s testimonies. Along with the majority of commentators, I have no doubt that the word שוח shuach, denotes that silent and secret musing in which the children of God exercise themselves.


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