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129

Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore my soul keeps them.

130

The unfolding of your words gives light;

it imparts understanding to the simple.

131

With open mouth I pant,

because I long for your commandments.

132

Turn to me and be gracious to me,

as is your custom toward those who love your name.

133

Keep my steps steady according to your promise,

and never let iniquity have dominion over me.


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129. Thy testimonies are marvelous. I have given this translation to avoid an ambiguous form of expression. The Prophet does not simply mean, that the doctrine of the law is wonderful, but that it contains high and hidden mysteries. Accordingly he declares, that the sublime and admirable wisdom which he found comprehended in the divine law led him to regard it with reverence. This is to be carefully marked, for the law of God is proudly despised by the great majority of mankind, when they do not duly taste its doctrine, nor acknowledge that God speaks from his throne in heaven, that, the pride of the flesh being abased, he may raise us upward by the apprehension of faith. We also gather from this passage, that it is impossible for any man to keep the law of God from the heart, unless he contemplate it with feelings of reverence: for reverence is the beginning of pure and right subjection. Accordingly, I have said that many despise God’s Word, because they think it inferior to the acuteness of their own understandings. Yea, many are led to break forth more audaciously into this heaven-daring contempt, from the vanity of showing their own ingenuity. But, although worldly men may flatter themselves in that proud disdain of the divine law, yet the commendation which the Prophet pronounces upon it still holds true, that it comprehends mysteries which far transcend all the conceptions of the human mind.

130. The entrance of thy word is light. The amount is, that the light of the truth revealed in God’s word, is so distinct that the very first sight of it illuminates the mind. The word פתח pethach, properly signifies an opening, 1010     “פתה pethach, ‘the opening of thy words giveth light:’ when I open my Bible to read, light springs up in my mind.” — Dr. Adam Clarke. The corresponding word in Syriac signifies to enlighten, and in Arabic to explain. Hence, in the opinion of some, פתח, pethach, is the expounding of thy word. but metaphorically it is taken for a gate. Accordingly the old translator has rendered it beginning, which is not improper, provided it is understood of the rudiments or first elements of the divine law. It is as if the Prophet had — “Not only do those who have attained an accurate acquaintance with the whole law, and who have made the study of it the business of their lives, discern there a clear light, but also those who have studied it even very imperfectly, and who have only, so to speak, entered the porch.” Now we must reason from the less to the greater. If tyroes and novices begin to be enlightened at their first entrance, what will be the case when a man is admitted to a full and perfect knowledge?

In the second clause the Prophet unfolds his meaning more fully. By little ones he denotes such as neither excel in ingenuity nor are endued with wisdom, but rather are unskilled in letters, and unrefined by education. Of such he affirms that, as soon as they have learned the first principles of the law of God, they will be endued with understanding. It ought to have a most powerful influence in exciting in us an earnest desire to become acquainted with the law of God, when we are told that even those who, in the estimation of the world, are fools, and contemptible simpletons, provided they apply their minds to this subject, acquire from it wisdom sufficient to lead them to eternal salvation. Although it is not given to all men to attain to the highest degree in this wisdom, yet it is common to all the godly to profit so far as to know the certain and unerring rule by which to regulate their life. Thus no man who surrenders himself to the teaching of God, will loose his labor in his school, for from his first entrance he will reap inestimable fruit. Meanwhile we are warned, that all who follow their own understanding, wander in darkness. By affirming that the little ones are enlightened, David intimates, that it is only when men, divested of all self confidence, submit themselves with humble and docile minds to God, that they are in a proper state for becoming proficient scholars in the study of the divine law. Let the Papists mock, as they are accustomed to do, because we would have the Scriptures to be read by all men without exception; yet it is no falsehood which God utters by the mouth of David, when he affirms that the light of his truth is exhibited to fools. God will not, therefore, disappoint the desire of such as acknowledge their own ignorance, and submit themselves humbly to his teaching.

131. I opened my mouth and panted. 1111     The allusion, according to some, is to an exhausted or thirsty traveler in hot countries, who gasps and pants for the cooling breeze, or the refreshing fountain. According to others this is a metaphor, taken from an exhausted animal in the chase, which runs open-mouthed, to take in the cooling air, the heart beating high, and the muscular force being nearly expended through fatigue. In either view the language is extremely expressive, showing how intensely the Psalmist longed for the refreshment and delight which an acquaintance with the word of God affords. And if the “opening of God’s words,” mentioned in the preceding verse, means the expounding of them, David here points out his eager desire to hear God’s word expounded. By these words the Psalmist would have us to understand that he was inflamed with such love to and longing for the divine law, that he was unceasingly sighing after it. In comparing himself to such as are hungry, or to such as burn with parching thirst, he has used a very appropriate metaphor. As such persons indicate the vehemence of their desire by opening the mouth, and by distressful panting, as if they would suck up the whole air, even so the Prophet affirms that he himself was oppressed with continual uneasiness. The opening of the mouth, then, and the drawing of breath, are set in opposition to a cold assent to the word of God. Here the Holy Spirit teaches with what earnestness of soul the knowledge of divine truth is to be sought. Whence it follows, that such as make little or no proficiency in God’s law, are punished by their own indolence or carelessness. When David affirms that he panted continually, he points out not only his ardor but also his constancy.

132. Look upon me, and be merciful to me. In this verse he beseeches God to have a regard to him: as he is accustomed always to look to those who are his people. The Hebrew word משפט mishpat, translated judgment, signifies in this passage, as in many others, a common rule, or ordinary usage. 1212     “According to the custom, or usual mode of acting. So Luther — as thou art accustomed to do, etc. In Genesis 40:13 — ‘Thou shalt deliver the cup, כמשפט, according to custom.’”— Phillips. He next adds the purpose for which he desires that God would look upon him, namely, that he may be relieved from his miseries. This, then, is the prayer of an afflicted man, who, when apparently destitute of all help, and unable to come to any other conclusion than that he is neglected and forsaken of God, yet reflects with himself, that, for God to forsake him, was foreign to his nature and to his usual manner of procedure. It is as if he had said — Although I can perceive no token of thy favor, yea, although my condition is so wretched and desperate, that, judging according to sense and reason, I deem that thou hast turned the back: upon me; yet, as from the beginning of the world to the present day, thou hast testified, by numberless proofs, that thou art merciful to thy servants, I beseech time that, acting according to this rule, thou wouldst now exercise the like loving-kindness towards me. It is to be particularly noticed, lest those whom God does not immediately answer may become discouraged, that the Prophet had been long oppressed by miseries, without any prospect of relief. Yet it is at the same time to be observed, that the Prophets sole ground of confidence in asking this from God is his free goodness. Whence we gather that, although he was a man of eminent sanctity, yet the undeserved grace of God was his only refuge. With respect to the word judgment, let us learn from the Prophet’s example to acquaint ourselves with the nature of God, from the various experiences we have had of it that we may have certain evidence that he is merciful to us. And, in truth, were not his grace known to us from the daily experience we have of it, which of us would dare to approach him? But if our eyes are not blind, we must perceive the very clear testimonies by which he fortifies our faith, so that we need not doubt that all the godly are the objects of his regard; only we must endeavor to be among the number of those who love his name. By this title is meant genuine believers; for those who only slavishly fear God are not worthy of being reckoned among his servants. He requires a voluntary obedience from us, so that nothing may be more delightful to us than to follow whithersoever he calls us. It is, however, at the same time to be observed, that this love proceeds from faith; yea, the Prophet here commends the grand effect of faith, by separating the godly, who lean upon the grace of God, from worldly men, who, having given their hearts to the enticements of the world, never lift up their minds towards heaven.

133. Direct my steps according to thy word. By these words he shows, as he has often done before in other places, that the only rule of living well is for men to regulate themselves wholly by the law of God. We have already repeatedly seen in this Psalm, that so long as men allow there-selves to wander after their own inventions, God rejects whatever they do, however laborious the efforts they may put forth. But as the Prophet declares that men’s lives are then only framed aright when they yield themselves wholly to the obeying of God, so, on the other hand, he confesses that to do this is not within their own will or power. God’s law, it is evident, will not make us better by merely prescribing to us what is right. Hence the outward preaching of it is compared to a dead letter. David, then, well instructed in the law, prays for an obedient heart being given him, that he may walk in the way set before him. Here two points are particularly deserving of our notice — first, that God deals bountifully with men, when he invites them to himself by his word and doctrine; and, secondly, that still all this is lifeless and unprofitable, until he govern by his Spirit those whom he has already taught by his word. As the Psalmist desires not simply to have his steps directed, but to have them directed to God’s word, we may learn that he did not hunt after secret revelations, and set the word at nought, as many fanatics do, but connected the external doctrine with the inward grace of the Holy Spirit; and herein consists the completeness of the faithful, in that God engraves on their hearts what he shows by his word to be right. Nothing, therefore, is more foolish than the fancy of those who say, that in enjoining upon men what he would have them to do, God estimates the strength which they have to perform it. In vain does divine truth sound in our ears, if the Spirit of God does not effectually pierce into our hearts. The Prophet confesses that it is to no purpose for him to read or hear the law of God, unless his life is regulated by the secret influence of the Holy Spirit, that he may thus be enabled to walk in that righteousness which the law enjoins. In the second clause he reminds us how necessary it is for us to be continually presenting this prayer at the throne of grace, acknowledging that he is the bond-slave of sin until God stretch forth his hand to deliver him. direct me, says he, that iniquity may not have dominion in me. 1313     בי, bi, IN me. Let me have no governor but God; let the throne of my heart be filled by him, and none other. — Dr. Adam Clark So long, then, as we are left to ourselves, Satan exercises’, over us his despotic sway uncontrolled, so that we have not power to rid ourselves of iniquity. The freedom of the godly consists solely in this — that they are governed by the Spirit of God, and thus preserved from succumbing to iniquity, although harassed with hard and painful conflicts.




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